09/09/2010 07:31 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Love Is the Real Legacy of 9/11

If you had one last thing to say,

What would it be?

One more way to stand

before your liberty.

Would it be, could it be,

Would it be love?

Would it be, could it be,

Would it be love?

(©2001, Edward Dee)

I was listening to this song by local singer-songwriter Edward Dee ( last week, and it struck me that his song is appropriate for 9/11 because it speaks so eloquently about the enduring legacy of that day: Love.

In the aftermath of that day, I remember hearing many accounts of the last words of people who were in the World Trade Center, in the planes, and on the rescue teams. Over and over, those messages were, "I love you."

Californian Melissa Harrington called her father from the World Trade Center to say she loved him. Then she left a message for her husband in San Francisco: "I just wanted to let you know I love you."

When Elizabeth Rivas' husband called from the World Trade Center, she wasn't home. He left a message with their daughter. The little girl told her mother, "He say, mommy, he say he love you no matter what happens, he loves you."

Captain Walter Hynes left a message for his wife while he was on his way with the NYFD to the World Trade Center: "I don't know if we'll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids."

Ceecee Lyles was a flight attendant on the plane that crashed in Shanksville, PA. She left a message for her husband: "Please tell my children that I love them very much. I'm sorry, baby. I wish I could see your face again."

Californian Tom Burnett called his wife and told her, "I love you, honey."

Honor Elizabeth Wainio called her stepmother and told her, "I have to go. . . . I love you."

Lauren Grandcolas left a message, "I just want to tell you how much I love you."

Mark Bigham called his mother and said, "I want you to know that I love you."

"I love you." That is the real legacy of the 2,752 people from 54 countries who died on 9/11.

Yet "I love you" is a far cry from the tone of discourse in the United States these days as the ninth anniversary of 9/11 approaches.

Unfortunately, many people believe that the three religious groups descended from Abraham - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - are destined to be enemies. This is based, some say, on the story of Ishmael and Isaac in the Torah. Some people even believe that this story justifies "Holy War."

Well, does it?

As I discovered years ago in a careful reading of the story of Ishmael and Isaac during Torah Study at our local synagogue, the two brothers honored Abraham by coming together to bury him after he died. Following the burial, Isaac went to live at Be'er-lachai-ro'i, the place where Hagar and Ishmael lived. I was surprised to learn this. I had never heard this part of the story; I didn't know that the two brothers had reconciled and lived together.

Isaac and Ishmael are not the only biblical brothers who made the choice to reconcile.

The brothers Esau and Jacob had a rough start. Esau hated Jacob for stealing his blessing, and Jacob was afraid to return from exile because he feared Esau's wrath. Jacob was surprised when Esau greeted him with graciousness and hospitality. At the end of the story they, too, lived in peace.

Then there's Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery. One day, after Joseph had risen to power in Egypt, his brothers came in need of food. Although they did not recognize Joseph, he recognized them. On their second trip, Joseph revealed that he was their long-lost brother. At first the brothers were afraid of him, but after Joseph kissed them and wept they started talking together. Then Joseph invited all of his brothers to come and bring their father and live with him in Egypt.

The stories of these biblical brothers remind us that reconciliation is possible, that we can live together.

We have a choice . . . we can perpetuate hatred or we can answer the call to live in love and be the best we can be.

As Edward Dee sings in another of his songs:

Every waking moment

There's enough for us all

Every waking moment

There's a voice that is calling you

Deep inside and true

Asking you to be

The best that you can be

Every waking moment

Come and see . . .

Every waking moment

There's enough for us all . . .

(©2001, Edward Dee)