Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam. And We Weep.

September 11, 2014, New York City

It has become an annual ritual. I turn on the t.v. early in the morning.

I listen to the names representing every ethnic and religious group. Names of those brutally murdered on this date thirteen years ago. Names of those who just went to work, as they did every day. Names of those who went to work to try to save others.

I listen to the bells. The bells that tell me a plane crashed, a tower fell. I stop everything for the moments of silence.

I listen to the stories of loss and I cry. Children, spouses, cousins, friends. I am stunned by how many say that they will see their loved one again, one day.  It’s over 3 hours and the names keep coming.

And I wait for the name of my friend Steven Jacobson. I see his picture on the screen with his age, 53 years old.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It still seems unreal.

I wonder why. I wonder what was accomplished. Death and destruction here, Shanksville, PA, the Pentagon, has led to death and destruction in so many towns, cities, countries. Has anyone won anything? Was there any higher purpose found? Is the world a better place for all of this loss? I fear it may be worse.

We cried. We prayed. We buried the dead that we could. We fought over how to move forward. We sang, “America the Beautiful.” We learned the last stanza which we rarely sang before:

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I look out my kitchen window and I see the space where the towers stood, framing the Jefferson Market Library. I see the new tower and wonder why it needed to be built. I wonder why it could not have been a memorial space. And I wonder what the New Year will bring. The President announces new troops being sent to far away lands. New horrors to face. There are real enemies. Ultimately, new names to add to this never ending list of war and death.

Many times a day we pray:

Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ta-aseh shalom aleinu, ve-al kol Yisrael, ve-al kol yoshvey teivel, v’imru, amen.

May the one who makes peace in the high places make peace for all of Israel and all of us. And let us say: Amen.

I’m not sure it’s enough. I’m not sure what else to do.

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About Gail F. Nalven

Jewish Educator, Rabbi, Tefillah Leader, Songleader, Teacher, and Freelance Jew
This entry was posted in Tefillah (prayer) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam. And We Weep.

  1. AKrauser@aol.com says:

    Amen! There are no words left.

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