Remarks made at the 9/11 Commemoration Program at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown, NJ

[These were the closing remarks at the program on September 11, 2011, at the Community Theater. They followed a performance by Mark Conklin of the song he wrote in 2001 entitled “September 12.”]

September 12, 2011

And so, friends, what is our “take-away?” What is it that we will take away from all this?  What is it that we have learned from this day, and from that day and from the ten years in between? There were so many truths revealed on September 12, 2001. What was it that we learned or relearned then, but have since forgotten? What did we learn then that we have to remember again, starting tomorrow, September 12, 2011?

We learned how very much we owe to those who serve and protect and fight and die on far-off shores so that we can sit under our vines and our fig trees and not be afraid.

We learned then that when fanatics tell you what they are going to do, we need to believe them.

We learned once more that the unthinkable is doable.

We learned that that which is of steel and concrete can be replaced, but which is of flesh and blood and spirit and soul cannot.

We learned then the horrifying depth of evil to which some can sink when they think God loves me but hates you – for only I have the truth.

And we learned the incredible degree of goodness and self-sacrifice to which some can rise when they put the other before the self, and when they practice faith without fanaticism.

We learned then and have seen more and more each day since then that what happens to them, there, will shortly happen to us, here; for the distance between there and here, between them and us, between you and me, has shrunk beyond measure.

We learned then that what unites us is more powerful than what divides us – and that what unites us and defines us as Americans is not an historic connection to a particular piece of land on this planet, not a single ethnicity nor or a single religion, but a singular commitment to an ideal: those truths we hold to be inalienable.

And we have learned once again that love bridges the gap between this world and the next, between now and eternity, for as ancient teachings tell us, love is stronger than death.

We learned that because some did and gave so much, we can do more and give more than we ever thought we could. And that is what defines a hero: someone whose example raises our sights and that which we expect of ourselves.

We learned that saying the word “they” brings us down, and saying the word “we” elevates us to the highest; for when we see our face in the face of the other – regardless of how different that face may be – when we see our face in the face of the other, the face we see is the face of the Divine!

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