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Imam Abdullah Antepli Headshot

Prayerful Reflections on September 11th

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This column was originally published in the Duke Chronicle. It has been reprinted with permission.

What is there to write about in today's column, other than the barbaric and heinous attacks of those heartless terrorists that took place 11 years ago today? Thousands of people in New Jersey, NYC and the District of Columbia started their morning on that day in their usual manner, but since then things have never been the same, for them and for the rest of the world. In cold blood, fewer than 20 men rocked the boat globally through their unjustifiable, despicable and treacherous actions. Many innocent lives perished during these attacks.

Every anniversary of this tragic day, I make a habit to set aside a substantial amount of time for myself and pray. My immediate prayers always go for the victims of these reprehensible attacks. I pray for those who died, and I pray even harder for their loved ones. I try to empathize with the pain and grief they must have felt on that day and since then. I can only imagine the terror in the hearts and minds of those people who heard the news of the attacks and desperately trying to contact their loved ones in Manhattan and Washington D.C. In the early hours of that horrific day, I can only imagine the pain of those who in panic were waiting to hear from a spouse, father, mother, son, daughter, relative or a friend who will never come home. I can picture the flowing tears of those who finally received the heart wrenching news of their loved ones but can only imagine their state of mind, how their thoughts sunk into deep sorrow. As I pray, I wonder what do these people do every Sept. 11? How do they hold it together? I bring up these wounded souls in my thoughts and prayers and pray for strength, recovery and healing for them.

I pray that as a nation we will never fall short to hold these people and support them in anyway that we can, as we remember them in our thoughts and prayers. I pray that their stories will not be stolen from them. I hope and pray that we will not pour salt into their bleeding wounds, abusing their memories by using them to score political points and/or to advance our own agenda. Many immediate relatives of the victims told me personally that seeing 9/11 misused to justify all sorts of non-worthy and cheap things deeply hurt them and increased their pain.

I also pray that we will, as our wounds are gradually healed, continue to grow from this calamity. One of the most helpful ways that we can turn these evil terrorist attacks into blessings is to use the pain and lessons to improve our empathy toward those nations and societies that are still battling this cancer of terror. We will be in solidarity with those who experience similar violence and destruction in their own lands.

There is no doubt that our immediate reactions to these despicable crimes didn't always reveal our best sides. Often anger, revenge and frustration took the lead from common sense, wisdom and compassion. As we were deeply shaken by the impact of 9/11, at times our fears took over our hopes and understandably all we wanted was to take revenge. This unhealthy situation changed us, damaged our civic culture and as a result, we found ourselves partially going astray from our principals and moral values. However, after 11 years of stormy developments, costly adventures and sailing in unhelpful and counter-productive waters, I pray that it is time to return to our senses, to more forcefully not allow these reprehensible attacks to define us and our history as a nation. I pray that we will reach out to our sources of strength and find out a way to motivate ourselves to be more determined than ever to uphold the foundational ideals of this country. Come back to those qualities, which make us a great nation, after partially shying away from them in the preceding years of 9/11.

And last but not least, I pray that the upcoming presidential elections will be a turning point in this recovery and healing process and its outcome will be answers to my prayers. We will show to ourselves and the rest of the world that the worst is over and we are on our way to get even better than where and what we were before.

In addition, I hope, as a clergyman, I am entitled and will be accepted for sharing these prayerful reflections in a highly confessional and spiritual language. These are my sincere personal prayers and hopes. Some might dismiss these prayers as the wishful thinking of a naïve imam but I invite all those who are willing to join me in saying heartfelt "Amens!" to them.