Eleven years ago, America confronted one of our darkest days. The events of September 11, 2001, brought collapsing towers in Manhattan and billowing smoke at the Pentagon, wreckage on a Pennsylvania field, and deep ache to the soul of our Nation. Nearly 3,000 innocent people lost their lives that morning; still more gave theirs in service during the hours, days, and years that followed. All were loved, and none will be forgotten. On these days of prayer and remembrance, we mourn again the men, women, and children who were taken from us with terrible swiftness, stand with their friends and family, honor the courageous patriots who responded in our country's moment of need, and, with God's grace, rededicate ourselves to a spirit of unity and renewal.
Those who attacked us sought to deprive our Nation of the very ideals for which we stand -- but in the aftermath of this tragedy, the American people kept alive the virtues and values that make us who we are and who we must always be. Today, the legacy of September 11 is one of rescue workers who rushed to the scene, firefighters who charged up the stairs, passengers who stormed the cockpit -- courageous individuals who put their lives on the line to save people they never knew. It is also a legacy of those who stood up to serve in our Armed Forces. In the 11 years since that day, more than 2 million American service members have gone to war. They have volunteered, leaving the comforts of home and family to defend the country they love and the people they hold dear. Many have returned with dark memories of distant places and fallen friends; too many will never return at all. As we mark these solemn days, we pay tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in faraway lands, to heroes who died in the line of duty here at home, and to all who keep faith with the principles of service and sacrifice that will always be the source of America's strength.
On September 11, 2001, in our hour of grief, a Nation came together. No matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family. This weekend, as we honor the memory of those we have lost, let us summon that spirit once more. Let us renew our sense of common purpose. And let us reaffirm the bond we share as a people: that out of many, we are one.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, September 7 through Sunday, September 9, 2012, as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance. I ask that the people of the United States honor and remember the victims of September 11, 2001, and their loved ones through prayer, contemplation, memorial services, the visiting of memorials, the ringing of bells, evening candlelight remembrance vigils, and other appropriate ceremonies and activities. I invite people around the world to participate in this commemoration.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
A Christian Prayer
"It is not those who say, 'Lord, Lord!' who will enter the reign of God, but those who do God's will." (Matthew 7:21)
God of all races, nations, and religions,
You know that we cannot change others,
Nor can we change the past.
But we can change ourselves.
We can join You in changing our only
And common future where you 'reign'
The same over all.
Help us not to say, "Lord, Lord" to any tribal gods,
But to hear the One God of all the earth,
And to do God's good thing for this One World.
A Baha'i Prayer
O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God! Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord. -- Baha'u'llah
A Buddhist Reflection
Willa, my godchild, was three, and lived 2 blocks away from the WTC on Sept 11, 2001. She was 7 years old at the time of the London metro bombing. On being told about the London terrorism, her eyes ﬁlled with tears and she said, "Mom, we should say a prayer." Willa begin with, "May the bad people remember the love in their hearts." I think of Willa and her prayer -- when I have been hurt or harmed, when I myself make a mistake, when I feel the need to try to start over, however difﬁcult that may feel. Whatever has happened or is happening in our lives, may we all remember the love in our hearts.
You can sit comfortably, or lie down if that seems preferable. Close your eyes, or leave them slightly open. This practice is done through the silent repetition of certain phrases. You need not try to force an emotion or a certain sentiment. The power of the practice comes from gathering all our attention around one phrase at a time. If your attention slips, gently let go of the distraction, and simply begin again repeating the phrases. Remember to repeat them with enough space and enough silence that the rhythm is pleasing to you. This is the song of your heart.
We begin with directing the phrases towards ourselves, as though offering ourselves a gift. You can experiment with the wording, but it can be as simple as, "May I remember, and abide in the love in my heart."
After a few minutes think of someone who has helped you -- a benefactor or a friend. You can repeat the same phrase as an offering to them, "May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart."
When you feel ready, move on to someone you hardly know, a near stranger. Perhaps the checkout person at the grocery store you shop at, or a friend of a friend of a friend. "May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart."
Then someone you are annoyed at, or have some difﬁculty with. "May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart."
And ﬁnally, an immense expanse of lovingkindness. "May all beings remember, and abide in the love in our hearts."
When you are ready, you can end the meditation, and see if you can bring some of this consciousness into your day.
A Secular Reflection
Tragedy can teach us many lessons. From pain, we can learn compassion. From division, we can learn solidarity. And when our world is shattered, as it was on September 11, 2001, we can learn to seek understanding.
On that violent day which shook us silent, America fractured. The lines between "us" and "them" grew thicker, darker, and harsher, muddying our shared humanity. We have since inhabited the shadows they cast, shouting at one another from across divides.
On this, the tenth anniversary of that heartbreaking day, we mourn and remember those we lost and all who were affected. But we are also given an opportunity: to overcome the lie of "them" and "I" and learn to live together.
The terrorists of 9/11 were guided by a narrative of intercultural incompatibility. But as people of diverse religious and secular identities, we can prove them wrong in our unity. By building bridges of understanding, we can emerge from the shadows and learn -- from one another -- how to be our best selves.
A Christian Prayer
Be Close to Me
You know that I believe in you.
You know that I trust in you.
You know that I love you.
But sometimes life is so painful,
your ways impossible to understand,
and your world so confusing.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed with pain.
Sometimes I feel tempted to despair.
Sometimes I give way to hatred.
Sometimes I doubt even you.
In times of pain, give me comfort.
In times of despair, give me hope.
In times of hatred, give me love.
In times of doubt, give me trust.
And even when I feel far from you,
be close to me,
A Hindu Prayer
As glass shattered, cement crumbled and steel melted in the inferno of senseless cruelty, the heart of humanity screamed in anguish. September 11, 2001 -- a day when the evil potential of misguided ego was again exposed. While our landmarks collapsed in a cloud of smoke and debris, beneath a surge of shock and rage, something awakened in our hearts: compassion. Suddenly, our worldly obsessions faded away as we cried for the plight of others and were deeply affected by our ﬁremen's sacriﬁce. In memory of this tragic day, let us join hands and pray for God's grace to heal, unite and empower us to serve with love.
A Jewish Prayer
Dear God, how do we pray for what was lost? We cannot pray for deliverance or a miracle, for the tragedy has already burned itself into our souls. Children have grown fatherless. Families are long since bereaved. We know there is no prayer to change the past.
So we pray to live with memory, with constant love, with the promise both to combat evil and to cherish goodness. Do not let our pain cloud our hopes or crush our hearts. Help us grow through this tragedy, keep faith with its victims, and sustain our trust in You.
A Spiritual Reflection
Every person can recall what it was like. In the massive unfolding tragedy you looked at television or to the sky, and you felt inside your skin the death of hope that anyone would survive. A shadow blotted out joy, and behind the shadow, evil worked to make sure that joy never returned. Of course that can't happen. No one can be in pain forever. Fear isn't here to stay. It just felt that way.
Suffering can be defined as the pain that makes life seem meaningless. Animals suffer, of course, and often deeply. Some are capable of mourning for their kind if one dies. Humans, however, are subject to complex inner pain that includes fear, guilt, shame, grief, rage and hopelessness. It was an illusion to think that our society was immune to such suffering. That illusion abruptly burst on Sept. 11.
Around me people reached out, beseechingly, for how to cope with their suffering. I offered this: "Don't be afraid to ask for contact. Reach out and tell your loved ones that you do love them, don't let it be taken for granted. Feel your fear. Be with it and allow it to be released naturally. Pray. Grieve with others if you can, alone if you must."
I would offer the same today.
A Christian Prayer
Lord, we remember the old hymn, "O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home."
In these days, help us return not only to our hurt but to Your help, and let us go on to help others because of what we have been through together.
O God of resurrection, from the destruction of precious lives and presumed security, bring forth faith, hope, and courage. From safety weapons cannot offer, let us find security in Your arms.
And let us follow You all the way Home.
A Jewish Prayer
The tenth anniversary of 9/11 falls during Elul, the month of preparation for the New Year. Our work is chesbon ha nefesh, an accounting of the soul, as individuals and as a community. Where have we been? Where are we now? What is the vision of the future we long to create? We hear the sounds of the shofar, the ram's horn. May these sounds remind us of those whose lives were lost, and bring comfort to those who loved them. May these sounds challenge us to ask what we have done over these years to bring healing to our world. May these sounds empower us to work together for peace.
A Hindu Prayer
As we remember 9/11 ten years later, let us recognize that true peace is an internal process and introspective journey. Let us vow to transform our world by transforming ourselves. And let us take to heart the ancient invocation from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad:
"May we move from ignorance to truth,
May we move from darkness to light,
May we move from death to immortality,
And may all beings find peace."
Om Shanti Shanti Om...
A Muslim Prayer
God of all nations, look with favor upon this great nation as we remember the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11 in its 10th anniversary. Be our source of strength, healing and comfort as our wounds still bleed.
God of wisdom and compassion, You create eventual blessings out of every kind of evil. Make us instruments and agents of such creation as we strive to turn the post-9/11 challenges into opportunities and blessings for others and ourselves.
God of mercy and grace, we bring up the immediate victims and their loved ones of these heinous acts into your attention. Be their light in these moments of darkness and difficulty.
God of hope and glory, do not let our hopes overcome by our fears. Do not let our souls crippled by despair. Be our source of hope and guidance in these times of sorrow and mourning.
Oh God, if we forget You. Do not forget us.
In your most Holy and Beautiful names we pray. Amen.
A Christian Prayer
Loving God of Peace:
On this anniversary of unbelievable sorrow, comfort those who mourn, and guide our
hearts toward healing and hope. Remind us of the love of Christ, love which leapt over
cultural and ethnic boundaries to feed the hungry, seek the lost and care for the least. Make of Your children, no matter how we name You, one human family, bound together in the work of justice and peacemaking. Make us one with the Light that shines in the darkness and illumines a path toward understanding and reconciliation. Let love be our genuine call. Amen.
A Sikh Prayer
The One Universal Creator of all, our Divine Mother and Father
In Your blessings we find true and lasting comfort and peace
Grant healing and solace to our wounded hearts
Grant us strength to bear the loss of loved ones and to live in Your Will
Grant us resilience in the face of hate, and the courage to face it with dignity
May we all unite and share one another's pain and tears
May the hatred in the world melt away in Your boundless and everlasting love
And living in Your Will, may all find peace, harmony and serenity.
A Christian Prayer
Thou who has been our help in ages past, thou who dispenses your comfort to all those who mourn. We seek your grace to strengthen us as we commemorate the lives of loved ones who have been lost on this day of anguish for our country and our world.
Wipe away the blinding tears that plummet down our cheeks like gushing streams of an overflowing riverbank. Our heavy hearts still search for the solace of your guidance through the maze of pain and the myriad of complex issues such tragedy releases.
Though hurt, we are compelled to commemorate those who are fallen on this day. Remember those who may not have lost a life but instead they lost a limb, those who gave their health for our wholeness, those who lost their emotional stability to help us regain our national security.
From first responders to heroic citizens we ask for your grace for these hurting heroes who often suffer in total silence. Fill the arms of mothers left empty and heal the hearts of fathers whose ears strain to remember the sound of fading laughter and frolic of children now gone. Wrap your arms around those who lost wives and husbands, parents, friends and confidantes on this day of terroristic espionage. Let that day which exhibited the worst in man be the catalyst of also revealing the best in our human hearts to love each other.
In spite of such pain we honor you as the God and guide who has enabled us to endure what we thought was impossible. Thank you for your sovereign grace that guides us beyond one moment of terror to a collective and individual destiny beyond that moment. Thank you for the occasional smile, the splendor of sunsets and the brilliance of sunrise. Since then you have granted us new friends and a renewed sense of purpose. Like stars in our night you have given us light in the midst of dark places for which we are so grateful.
Watch over us with your omniscient eye grating us your continued protection. Our enemies remain unrelenting. In the true spirit of our faith, we also pray for our enemies. Let the message of your love and light extend not only to those who mourn but to those who hate, that they might realize that hate will not replace the better choice of debate nor will destruction reconstruct the common chord of our shared brotherhood as human beings. Have mercy on the pain and misguidance that would make them seek the horrific option of destruction. Guide them to the light of your love.
Teach us collectively, the power of that love, the simple riches of your peace. Show us that the indomitable spirit of self-preservation need not lead us to the selfish indulgence of blind devastation and the malicious disregard for each other.
You are the God of all people, the father of every soul. Lord, teach your children to love each other as much as they profess to love you.
In Jesus Christ's name we pray.
A Pagan Blessing
By the Earth that is Her body
By the Air that is Her breath
By the Fire of Her bright spirit
By the Waters of her living womb
Let the Peace of the Goddess grow in our hearts.
Peace as we honor our dead with undying memory.
Peace as the tears of grief are shed.
Peace as we remember the world sharing our pain.
Peace as the flood waters are receding.
Peace as we understand that we are all mostly water. Literally.
Let the waters of compassion flow.
Let the healing continue.
We are whole.
A Christian Prayer
God of love we place in your loving arms the thousands of innocent lives that were lost on that unforgettable morning of September 11, 2001. We also remember the courage of the countless men and women who put their lives at risk in order to rescue, alleviate and bring solace to the afflicted. Help us to continue to work for a world free from every form of hatred, violence and ignorance. May terrorism -- in all its forms -- disappear from the face of the earth. Amen.