Three responses to 9/11 grief

Eleven years ago on September 11, I was in college. I was getting out of a Tuesday morning class when I heard people talking about an airplane crash. As I walked back to my apartment, I heard more and more information. I walked by a utility truck and heard words on the radio, “World Trade Center… airplane… Pentagon… crash.”  I thought to myself, this is serious.  Minutes later I watched the towers come down.

With the 11th anniversary of September 11, 2001 here, many Americans are sorting through their minds and hearts.  How have I changed from 11 years ago? What do I feel when I think of September 11, 2001?  Where was I on that fateful day? Why am I still sad? Where can our country go from here? Our grief is still very real.

As we reflect and look back, we have three main responses to our September 11 grief:

Anger – We are understandably upset and angry that our country was threatened. We are angry that people’s lives were lost, that our sense of security was broken, and we are hurt that people think America is not a place of freedom. Ten years ago, we looked towards people and places to direct our hostile feelings.  Many of us may still be angry at people and institutions that committed these acts or did not prevent the attacks. Still, if we let our anger stew and our hate grow, we are no better than those who actively resist against our country.  Anger is a place that we can visit, but we cannot make a home of it. We are often angry because we are afraid.

Sadness – Tears are a way that we let our emotions out. Feelings of depression that hovered around on September 11, 2001 are revisited 10 years later.  We might even recall the numbness we felt watching the television week after week the scene of the towers coming down.  We feel sadness for those families who lost loved ones. Sometimes, sadness brings back memories that we want to forget. We often want to isolate ourselves during periods of melancholy. It’s healthy to be sad and express sadness. However there is a better way.

Hope – This is the stuff that makes Americans great. Our optimism has propelled each generation to work harder so that our children can have a better life.  Ten years ago, that was the message that we clung to. We hoped that we could rebuild. We did. We hoped that we could be safe. We are. We hoped that our country could be united. We remain. Hope is the final response we can have. Sure, anger and sadness are natural emotions, but it is hope that gets us through the worst of times.

On this September 11, may you have hope as you look back 11 years.  May you have hope as you look forward to another 11 years.  May you have hope that your family and  this world can be a better place.  Put your hope into action and start by committing yourself to acts of kindness and compassion in your own community.

Today, remember the day, but remember what is great about humanity: the ability to continue and recover in the midst of struggle.

Alan Rudnick

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About the Author
Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education.

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  • Jack Wolford

    Its been said that the difference between a recession and a depression is whether You are out of work or not .  Same holds true since 09-11-01 terrorist attacks .  If a relative of yours has been killed by terrorists since then you know that it’s not over ; however , today someone connected with al Qaeda after we “droned”  another of their leaders , said he could broker a peace deal – We stop everything we’re doing and they would stop threatening to blow us up .  A lot of very brave Americans have died and continue to put themselves in danger in lots of areas since 0911 including our Intelligence , local Law Enforcement  and our Armed Forces . I say whatever it takes to do your job and keep your head screwed on tight is where you should be .  Security checks at airports are still done with the idea of catching someone – more power to them .  Where there were only about two-hundred subversive groups before Obama was elected , there are over twelve- hundred now ( per SPLC ) each capable of being a “hired gun” .   ” It ain’t over till it’s over” Yogi Berra  said .   Different strokes for different folks .

  • hopsing camfong

    I see many people who seem to make changing what caused their grief their calling. On example is MADD. To me, to be reminded of the grief everyday would be tough but these mothers get out and try to make a difference

    They have some very scary numbers and trends that make me think about staying home as these people have no clue as to who they may hurt.

    As part of its awareness campaign, MADD is reminding drivers of the
    real dangers of drunk driving. In 2010, according to MADD, Thanksgiving
    day was the deadliest Thursday of the year.
    A new trend called “Blackout Wednesday,” where revelers drink an
    exorbitant amount of alcohol on the start of the long Thanksgiving
    weekend, has also increased drunk driving fatalities. During the
    Thanksgiving weekend in 2010, drunk driving accounted for 40 percent of
    highway deaths and 174 people were killed. This is up from 35 percent in

    During the Christmas holiday, 96 people lost their lives due to drunk
    driving. Holiday fatality rates are particularly high on New Year’s Eve
    and New Year’s Day. Over 140 people lost their lives due to drunk
    driving on the last day of the year, and on New Year’s Day, 57 percent
    of traffic fatalities were the result of drunk driving.

  • Judith Shea

    After my dad died I wrote him a letter. It made me feel a lot better