Home ...From the Ashes
Home ...From the Ashes

...From the Ashes

Last night as I walked home I saw two beams of pure light piercing the sky. Like a dream or vision, after a fiery sunset on the first chilly day of September they shone through the sky across the river and I thought of Ezekiel, I thought of Jeremiah and I thought of ashes.

We have long dredged the bottom of the hole now, a great pit squarely lined with concrete, the ashes hauled away to a Staten Island dumps, it is all neat and sanitized as real graves never are. We have made the place memorial ready like mourners prepared to walk away from the gleaming oaken casket and leave the past behind us.

But let us turn back to the ashes now and what remained after the last of the living and the dead had been recovered from the rubble. What is it that rose from these ashes?

Resolve, patriotism and even a memory of national greatness stirring, of a sleeping giant awakening to bestride the tattered ground. But such emotions and drives endure only so long as there are leaders to channel them. Like ghosts or beams of pure light they cannot hang in the air for long. And so the night passes and becomes day, the calendar changes and they pass away.

In New York's long memory though the ashes still stir, whirling on air, carrying scraps of paper, scraps of men and women who loved and lost, before they too were lost, to the heights of distant stone and steel towers and the depths of deep tunnels underground. For stone and steel remember what men forget. Every life, every fire, every death is graven on the city and like a book of stone written of ash and dust, there are as many stories that may be read there, as there are the dead.

The beams hold their image, graving with light upon the sky an impermanent image, a memory, a summons, a silent call.

What is it that they call us to? From ash to light, from impermanence to permanence, the echo is there and sky and earth both resound with it on this terrible day. And some pass and briefly look up and then away again, away from the bright light and hurry on about their rounds and chores. There are things to buy and work to do and places to go. The light calls but who answers? Who remembers anymore?

Some ask, have we learned the lesson of 9/11? But better to ask, what lessons have we learned? Have we learned the lessons of WW2 or WW1 or the Civil War? Do men even learn lessons or do they repeat them over and over again like tardy schoolboys in the great dusty classrooms of history.

Given time pain becomes a name and the name becomes unfeeling stone, a towering memorial, a lit torch, a tombstone we can plant and forget about. And with that the vital names of American history, Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Marne, Pearl Harbor, Ground Zero turn to stone closed inside the pages of a history book, reduced to memorials and removed from our understanding as events we must respond to rather than merely commemorate and remember.

Have we learned anything from 9/11 even as we memorialize it? We are in the last legs of a Presidential election, the leading candidate of which is Barack Hussein Obama. 5 days after the attacks, as the ashes still lay across Lower Manhattan, his pastor of two decades who had inspired much of Obama's rhetoric, celebrated the attacks, screeching that America had brought it on itself. Two years later the man who officiated at the Obamas' wedding and baptized their children, the former black Muslim bigot, proclaimed to loud shouts of approval in his Church, "God Damn America." In Obama's church.

Obama's close personal ties to domestic terrorists, including William Ayers, his background in an Islamic school and his approval from terrorist regimes such as Libya and Iran should disqualify him from even being considered for the Presidency. Yet the ashes have settled, the media blares its mixed barrage of pop culture and propaganda and we move on to make the son of the enemy our new Commander in Chief.

Yet is this not the fruit born of our own failure to vigorously prosecute terrorism. First we decided to reject terrorism, but to differentiate between terrorism against Israelis by Fatah, which was legitimate, with Al Queda which was not. We distinguished between "moderate" terrorists and "extremist" terrorists. We distinguished between terrorists in suits and terrorists in rags. Then we began to distinguish between the terrorists we could temporarily buy off in Iraq and the ones we could not. Is it any wonder now that we are on the verge of electing a perfectly polite smiling terrorist supporter who aside from his ties to half the left wing and Islamic radicals in Chicago, seems oh so very moderate.

The beams of light shine, but what do they illuminate? And what do we see when we look into the light? Do we see the past or the future? The lessons or the failures, the living or the dead?


  1. An eloquent and thoughtful article on the seventh anniversary of the tragedy written by an author who lived through the tragedy.

    Thank you for writing this. I wish I could say something to comfort you and the others who survived that day.

    Having no answers for the questions at the conclusion two thoughts go through my mind--the nursery song, "ring around the rosey/pocket-full of posey/ashes, ashes, we all fall down."

    And the famous "beauty for ashes" verse from the Tanach:

    "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified."

    Isaiah 61:3.

  2. Anonymous11/9/08

    Would have been a good editorial until you reverted to rumor and slander by accusing Obama of being a Muslim terrorist.

    Extremism is extremism - whether you are an Al Qaeda operative who is willing to commit suicide if you can take a few infidels with you, or if you write editorials making false accusations and try to push the public to the right-wing that sees war and death as an answer.

  3. so you just equated me with an Al Queda terrorist for writing an editorial critical of Obama

    I don't think something like that even requires a rebuttal

  4. Anonymous11/9/08

    Beautiful piece, SK. Thanks.

  5. Yes. It is a beautiful and heartfelt article. And no rebuttal is needed in response to an insensitive clod.

    I'm sorry you had to live through Sept. 11, Sultan, and relive it every year. Seven years is such a short time in the grief process. I wish I could say something comforting.

  6. America learned nothing from 9/11. Why else would a muzlim be allowed to run for president and it's considered acceptable.

  7. Anonymous16/9/08

    I wholeheartedly agree with Yobeeone. To be honest, without God it would scare me to death to see Obama becoming the next President. Everyone was talking about his pastor when the more serious issues are his connections to Islam. But God brings up kings and he brings him down and nothing can change that. Praise God.


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