Rabbi Menachem Creditor shared these memories and thoughts on that Sept. 11, eight years ago.
I remember leaving class at JTS that Tuesday morning and going downstairs to move my car. A friend was in the elevator when I got in and asked, “did you hear about the planes that flew into the World Trade Center just now?” I got downstairs and saw thousands of people staring into the sky, talking on their cell phones, confused and scared. I listened to the news on the radio and went into a shock that hasn’t truly finished its course to this day.
I returned to class, informing my professor of what was happening, and then visited the offices of Camp Ramah down the hall to witness the unfolding horror on computer screens and TV’s. Suddenly I realized that I didn’t know where my sister, a Manhattan EMT, was. Nor could I reach my wife, pregnant with our first child. The Seminary was locked down, and we gathered to pray, to watch, to cry, to mourn, to scream.
That was eight years ago. I woke up this morning in California and 8:46am on 9/11 had already happened on the East Coast. I watched live videos of names being read and bells being rung, already in process. But I feel the need for something Jewish to do. A Yahrzeit candle. I need to say Kaddish. I feel strangely distant from something that once felt immediate, inescapable. Time moves on, but forgetting feels wrong.
I remember the Concert for New York that October, watching some of my favorite artists and leaders comforting us, touching the hands and faces of Police, Firefighters, EMT’s, and other heroes. I remember listening to Billy Joel, once the embodiment of New York, singing “I’m in a New York State of Mind,” and noticing how ashen his face looked. Wondering if his was a mirror of mine, of every New Yorker’s. I watched Bono hold his jacket, now sewn together with an American flag. He moved 20,000 people to sing “In the Name of Love” with tear-stained faces.
So I write to you today, full of emotion. It’s a Jewish way of sharing something deep, of retelling the story. It’s a way of sharing the pain of being a proud and grateful American on the eighth anniversary of a very bad day. Sharing the story is a Jewish response to tragedy. So is lighting a yahrzeit candle. So is saying Kaddish.
If you feel moved to take a moment before lighting Shabbat candles tonight to notice them standing tall next to each other, that is one more Zikaron, a tribute to our fallen brothers and sisters.
If you feel strong enough to reach out to someone who was there in New York on that traumatic day, that is an act of Nechama, of comfort.
If you feel committed to strengthening our country through participating in important civic debates, that is an act of Binyan, of rebuilding.
May we see a day when war and bloodshed cease, where no one will be terrified again.