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It’s the Day After 9/11. What Now, Memphis?

September 12, 2012

Yesterday was a day of remembrance across America.

Each living generation has had at least one of those moments in time seared forever into memory, when the air was sucked out of our bellies and our souls rattled and something in us died forever.

December 7, 1941.  November 22, 1963.  April 4, 1968. September 11, 2001.

What do we take away from yesterday’s barrage of retrospectives, memorials, and commentaries?  What did we learn, if anything can be learned, from hell breaking loose on a sunlit September morning in a city built of steel and success?

We learned this: that after two centuries, the sinews of a great people hold fast the values that shaped the American Experiment. And when tragedy strikes, when there is  struggle against the forces of evil and death, the better angels of our nature compel us to help one another.

Memphis, read this poem as a message to each of us, here, today, in a city struggling to survive the scourges of a broken world. Keep it in your hearts and minds not just for a day but for each and every day.  Believe in what we can still be as a city, together as children beloved by God and designed to live in harmony.

The Power of One

As the soot and dirt and ash rained down,

We became one color.

As we carried each other down the stairs of the burning building,

We became one class.

As we lit candles of waiting and hope

We became one generation.

As the firefighters and police officers fought their way into the inferno

We became one gender.

As we fell to our knees in prayer for strength,

We became one faith.

As we whispered or shouted words of encouragement,

We spoke one language.

As we gave our blood in lines a mile long,
We became one body.

As we mourned together the great loss

We became one family.

As we retell with pride of the sacrifice of heros

We become one people.

We are

One color

One class

One generation

One gender

One faith

One family

One soul

One people

We are The Power of One.

We are United.

We are America.

~Dr. Cheryl Sawyer

One more time.  Because it matters. Watch the video,  lines spoken by the voices of 9/11, with music composed by ALFIO as a tribute to the heroes of that day and this.

Dr. Cheryl Sawyer, the author of “The Power of One,” is a professor of counseling at the University of Houston Clear Lake School of Education. “Usually, when there is a community tragedy or crisis,” Dr. Sawyer recalled, ” I am in the schools working with teachers and kids.  Unfortunately, this time, I was out on medical leave and grounded to the couch pending major surgery.  I was whining to my husband about not being able to help and he suggested I put it down in writing.  So I did and that poem (THE POWER OF ONE) came pouring out.  I usually keep my poetry to myself, but I was quite shook up so I decided to share this one.  I emailed it to my mom and the local newspaper, and the poem ended up all over the world.”

How can we create and sustain the Power of One in Memphis? How do we come together for our common good? What are you willing to do to lift up those that are stumbling, to cradle the suffering, and to rebuild a city struggling between greatness and dry rot? Where do we start?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2012 1:19 am

    Government only enables the poverty-stricken. Private business is too self-interested to serve those in need.
    The only hope those in poverty and need have is in the catholic body of Christ. More specifically, in their self-sacrificial conversion of the assets of the institution. Memphis has enough churches per capita to eliminate poverty in a generation.

  2. September 13, 2012 10:52 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Darrell. I agree that we must mobilize the churches to make a meaningful impact on Memphis’ future. Do you think it’s possible to sway area churches to make Memphis their top mission priority? Folks do like to take those international trips!

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