Christian remembering is a two-fold action: involving something we choose to do; and something we allow to be done to us, because we cannot do it for ourselves. It finds its ultimate symbolic expression in the Eucharist* where:
(i) we recall Jesus’ death, and so bring the past into the present; and
(ii) Jesus re-members his broken body (and so brings the future into the present), a body broken not only by the sin that separates us but also by such things as geographical and temporal and cultural distance, which are not at all sinister in themselves but which potentially create room in which sin can be nurtured.
This is the pattern for all Christian remembering: we choose to bring the past into the present, not in order to keep old wounds fresh, but in order that broken or divided communities may be put together – in order that reconciliation can take place and healing can flow – and in this task we need to welcome a mediator, a minister of reconciliation.
There is no point in recalling the events of 9/11 – or any of the global events that have taken place since – unless we are also willing to embrace reconciliation. But we must also be honest enough to recognise that reconciliation is hard – how, for example, might the wife and the mistress of a man who died on 9/11 be reconciled to one another in their shared, albeit complex, loss? – and that we need someone else to help us...just as we, in turn, might have to be the minister of reconciliation for someone else.
At the tenth anniversary of 9/11 we ought to ask, how long must we go on remembering something so awful? The Christian answer is not “Forever: we must never forget!” (for such a memory resists its healing) but “Until the last person divided from their neighbour by this event has been restored to the human family.” That will take a long time, but it should not take forever.
*Eucharist derives from the Greek for ‘to give thanks’ and anchors the act of remembrance in Jesus’ choice, in the face of death, to give thanks for God’s provision of the daily ‘stuff’ of life, and to honour it with the gift of pointing to life that overcomes death.