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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Septembers Ago


My friend and Masonic brother Nathan Brindle posted a link today to what is perhaps the most difficult article I have ever read about the day of 9/11/2001. It's called The Falling Man by Tom Junod, from the September 2003 issue of Esquire. I have thought about it since I read it this morning, and it may very well be with me forever.

Just as I have never forgotten a piece Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal a year after the Twin Towers were destroyed. It was called The Fall After Sept. 11, and her words have haunted me for 8 solid years:

"The other day I walked by Saint Vincent's Hospital in downtown Manhattan and thought, as I always do when I walk by: This is where they waited for the wounded. The interns and nurses waited outside right here with gurneys for patients who didn't come. Because so few people were "wounded." The three thousand were dead. What happened to them? They were exploded into air. They became a cloud. We breathed them in."


The stories today all repeat the same rough statistic: "nearly 3000" died in the attacks that day. They weren't nearly 3000. They were 2,977 of our citizens and neighbors, who got up on a Tuesday morning, got dressed and went to work, who were murdered by 19 madmen. They all have names, and faces, and stories, and lives they touched in life and in death.

This morning, Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill spoke in New York City at Zuccotti Park. He read portions of the poem "The Builders" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.


I am attending a Masonic event tonight. WBro. John Wade has come from England and will give a presentation about Masonic processions since the 1700s. Some of those processions over the last 300 years have been to lay cornerstones for buildings. Freemasons have been doing that as part of our public ceremonies almost since our modern beginnings in 1717. We dedicated the cornerstones that founded Washington, DC: the White House, the US Capitol building, and the very city itself.


The 20-ton granite cornerstone for the Freedom Tower that is being built at Ground Zero was ceremonially set into place on July 4th, 2004. Only 200 elected officials, families of the victims, and the press were invited to attend. And several members of the Grand Lodge of New York. The stone was removed two years later as construction plans were altered, and it sits in the quarry yard in Long Island. But it will be returned. And when it is, I hope Freemasons perform the public ceremony for it.

Because we build.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean
.

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