Today is September 11th. It is a day that, to quote President Franklin D Roosevelt speaking about a day in the early 1940’s, “will live on in infamy. It is the anniversary of the attacks on the two identical towers that comprised what was called the World Trade Center in New York City. It was an attack on citizens of the world because not just Americans were killed but many nationalities. It was a day in which honor was lived in both misguided and wonderful presence.
Honor is an interesting word, one that illustrates how culture and time can define a word. In the 1600’s ACE, the word “honor” meant a particular gift of great value or a legion of the highest ability. Visiting dignitaries were often bestowed with something of great honor that was significant to the area being visited, such as the key to the city. Soldiers strived to become part of an “honor platoon” which often would be chosen to guard such a dignitary or perhaps the ruler.
Also in the 1600’s the word was associated with women and female purity. One seldom hears male purity being discussed. Even the celibacy of Roman Catholic priests and other spiritual leaders is encouraged as a way to staying focused, not for purity reasons. The term “honor” was connected with a chaste woman and so it is no surprise that it soon came to be defined as respectable.
The word, however, dates back four hundred years. Spelled “oner” it was a word used to signify welcome or present in the 140’’s ACE. However, in the 1200’s we have the original meaning of the word, “onor” – dignity. Today there are at least eight definitions of the word, Honor, the “h” being added by the French sometime before its use by William Shakespeare. Use in the 1200’s to mean respect, it is easy to see the connection to dignity.
Today in many places, homes, and nations, there will be remembrances for those who perished during the flying of two airplanes into the World Trade Towers and also the flying of an airplane into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and into a field in western Pennsylvania. A group of men claiming falsely to honor Allah undertook four suicide missions and in the process lost all respect for human life and defied the dignity of their supposed religion. They showed no honor nor faith. All they showed the world was the loss of intelligent thought and how blindly following evil will lead to destruction and death.
The names of these lost souls are not the named of dignity to remember. Those names of honor are the names of the people who lost their living that day and their families and survivors. All were a part of a family unit at some point in their life. All were part of the family of man. None considered themselves a hero to the world but that day they showed us true honor and dignity by living their lives up to the very last second that those lives were taken from them.
We do not honor those dignified citizens of the world, those honorable members of the family of man by hating others. We best honor them by living to the highest degree possible, by welcoming other members of the family of man, by being present in our living. We best show them respect by being the best we can be, not by continuing the hatred that led those who perpetrated these crashes down such a horrific journey.
The morning of September 11, 2001 found the children of New York City in school. Suddenly, however, their world shifted on its axis and the air in the general areas of the World trade Center was filled with the chaotic remnants of construction materials, fires, cries of agony, and metal crashing down. Pictures drawn by children began appearing around the city and at the other two crash sites. Robin F. Goodman and Andrea Fahnestock gathered many of these in a book they published entitled “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11”.
My favorite picture was drawn by Tamara Obradovic who was nine years old at the time. It shows the two tall twin towers with fire behind them and the flying debris all around them. Miniscule people, little tiny stick figures are at the bottom of the scene. The two towers each have one eye drawn on them near the top and from the eyes, red tears fall.
Matthew Sussman drew a picture of stick figures walking on broken concrete, reaching out to each other. His figures are of different colors, the colors of the family of man. He entitled his picture “Coming Together”. What a glorious way to honor those who died. What a wonderful way to make the ordinary process of grief something extraordinary. What a grand way to live honorably.