Ten years gone

Military Chaplains
Image by expertinfantry via Flickr

Thoughts rolling in my head like clothes in a dryer this morning as I watch the coverage saying that finally Osama Bin Laden has been killed by U.S. Navy Seals.  I read back in my journal the night that President Bush announced we were going to war:  “how many lives will be lost?  how many years will this take?  how safe will we be afterward…really?  Lord have mercy.”

I wonder as I watch the coverage:  is this normal?  is this true?  When have we ever seen such detailed coverage of a military operation?  Maps of the route of the helicopters?  Graphic photos of the kill site with reporters trying to guess what the blood spatters suggest?  I don’t remember learning how to discern such things when I was working on my Journalism degree.  Huh.

Facebook comments sing praises to God, to the military, to construction workers who continue to work at Ground Zero.  I remember visiting my friend Margaret at the Episcopal seminary a couple of miles from Ground Zero in the spring of 2002.  She was still shaking.  I thought it would help if she talked to me about her experiences that day.  She couldn’t.  We went to Trinity church next to Ground Zero and I looked at all the memorabilia people had posted about their loved ones as they wept and cried in that place.  Ordinary supplies for the workers were still on tables:  shaving gel and disposable razors;  granola bars and gator aid;  chapstick.  Blankets and pillows had been in every pew she said, so that workers and grievers alike could sleep.  The first thing I saw on the wall surrounding Ground Zero when we emerged from the subway was graffiti with the words from my favorite bible verse, Matthew 28:11 “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-burdened…”

I exchange emails with my friend whose husband served in Iraq while I was their pastor.  Together they enlightened me on the faith dimensions of serving in the military.  In her email she said, “It was a delayed reaction for me.  The full implications of what it means to so many people didn’t hit me until this morning.  I found myself shouting and hell-yea’ing to the news reports on the way to work.  It is because of what that man did and the resulting events set into motion that my husband went to Iraq, came home with demons, and wears the names of four fallen Marines engraved on a steel bracelet on his wrist.  My elation, joy, relief, whatever you want to call it is more for him than anything else.”

I realize now how I’ve changed in these ten years.  I pray every time people I love are in a public place — the more public and city-centric, the more I pray.  I watch people more carefully when I am shopping, naturally looking for actions that suggest I should duck.  I know where Exits are.  I occasionally study the  faces of people who trigger my fight or flight response, in case I have to describe them to the police.  I am no longer shocked when I hear of shootings, though I continue to mourn.

Today the United States, with most of the world, is celebrating.  It is hard for me personally to rejoice, though I am glad Bin Laden is dead.   I pray this is the end, but something tells me it isn’t.  I pray most of all it is the beginning of something new that is guided by our Creator, by whatever name you know him. 

I often pray in this way using the words below, lyrics from a song written by a friend, now pastor, who I’ve known since he was 8 years old.  We were once in a play together:  The Gospel According to The Angel Julius.  He played Jesus.  I played the woman with the questions, a prophetic role for me.  I cannot rejoice today, though I feel a cautious sense of peace.  I still have questions.  And still I pray.

God Bless
Words and music by Tim Jahn

My nation is one among so many in my world
my race is not the only race
so brother, you ask me if I’l stand against evil
well, evil has more than one face
So I pray (Let us pray to the Lord)

God bless America
United we stand
But don’t just bless my country
bless the whole land
God Bless Asia
and Africa, too
and if you’ve been suffering
may God bless you
God bless the homeless
of every creed
whether it’s shelter
or a country you need
God Bless the nations
ravaged by war
when noone remembers
what it’s all for

(Oh say can you see)
If that piece of cloth is gonna stand for justice in this world
if that piece of cloth is gonna stand for peace
well that piece of cloth can not stand on its own
cause everyone has to believe

in peace (let us pray to the Lord)

God bless the hungry everywhere
teach us to take only what is our share
God bless the workers
who made all your clothes
cause what they’ve been going through
God only knows
God bless the sick ones
and God bless the weak
show them it’s healing
not vengeance you seek
God bless the users
and God bless the used
cause while they’re still out there
we still can get through

I pray (let us pray to the Lord)

God bless the victims
the women and men
don’t let their anger make them victims again
God bless the angry, riddled by hate
show them forgiveness, love and faith
God bless our neighbors
God bless our friends
God bless our enemies
until it all ends


  1. The phrase goes something like this: “penalty for excessive celebration”….10 yards…


  2. Marie, your words make more sense to me than ANY I have heard on the air or seen in print this morning. Really, dear lady, your stuff ought to be in big time syndication where it could and would change millions of lives in lots of good ways.


  3. Having been in Manhattan the night Bin Laden was killed, the ambiguity of the whole scene was striking. The day before I stood at ground zero and reflected on the horrendous nature of what happen on 911 and what it has cost our nation in lives lost and lives lived in fear, as well as the tens of thousands of lives destroyed the world over. Celebration seems inappropriate. And yet I understand it. As the horns blew and the people assembled with shouts of joy at the death of terrorist, I understood, and for a moment wished to join in it. We are broken. Our motives at best are mixed, our understanding of mercy and justice clouded by pain. True celebration, it seems to me, can be grown only in the soil of peace, a place from which we remain quite distant.

    Anyway, thanks Marie for your post and thank you Tim Jahn for your beautiful poetry.


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