This is the conclusion of my reflections upon my experiences on 9/11.  To read part one, click here.

Although the DC streets had been empty, the Metro was packed.  Our train did not stop at the Pentagon station, but slowed up enough that we could see the platform was controlled by armed military.  The subway let us off at the Pentagon City station and one of our contingent called the hotel shuttle to come pick us up.  The Pentagon city area was packed with people, most trying to make their way home while emergency personnel rushed by.

We waited for over an hour for the shuttle driver to make the 10 minute drive to get us.  Road closures and emergency vehicles around the Pentagon had made his trek more lengthy.  We soon saw why.  As we turned onto the interstate headed to our hotel, we passed the still burning Pentagon building.  The scene of emergency crews tending to the fire, seeing the destruction of one side of this national icon, and witnessing the hordes of media on the hill filming the spectacle was surrealistic.

There were seven or eight of us from out of town who were stuck at this remote hotel.  As all of the airline flights had been canceled, any of the group who lived east of the Mississippi River were checking into rental cars, trains and buses to get home.  Many were able to line up alternate transportation and were gone within a day or so.  After a couple of days, only a woman from Seattle and myself were left stuck at the hotel.

The hotel became like a ghost town.  There was not much within easy walking distance of the hotel.  I soon tired of the one convenience store and two restaurants that were nearby.  Reading and television became my pastimes.  The television primarily carried news about 9/11.

The hotel shuttle driver soon befriended me.  This dark skinned African from a country whose name escapes me showed compassion for my predicament.  He gave me his personal cell phone number and told me anytime I needed a ride someplace to call him.  As the days passed, he became my savior.  When the nearby mall reopened, he drove me to the movie theater.  When I depleted all my reading material, he drove me to a nearby Borders.  Whenever I was ready to come back to the hotel, one cell phone call and he was there right away.  He filled me with conversation and stories of DC and moving from Africa.  The compassion he showed me for those lonely five days still touches my heart.

When the airlines restarted their operations, I was able to get a flight back to Denver.  Suffice to say I was excited to get home.  But the home I had left, like my country, had changed.  The events of 9/11 will forever remain etched in our memories and in our hearts.

And, a lot has happened in the intervening nine years.  For much of that time our country has been at war, both in the violent wars in the Middle East as well as some emotional wars at home.  Just as the Pentagon has been rebuilt and continued its operations, many Americans have done the same emotionally speaking.  We still grieve those whose lives were lost.  We are thankful that most of the perpetrators of this heinous event have been brought to justice and still desire the same for those who remain free.  We recognize that these horrific events were caused by a small group of radical terrorists who on that fateful day hijacked not only airplanes but Islam as well.

At the site of Ground Zero we have been unable to materialize fully our desired memorial.  This lack of closure is mirrored by the emotional turmoil that exists in the hearts and minds of those who continue to blame all the followers of Mohammed for the mistakes of a misguided few.

In recent days, there has been much publicity over the building of an Islamic center a few blocks from the site of Ground Zero.  Many say the flames of the controversy have been fanned by a handful of wealthy individuals who seek political gain by playing upon our still raw emotions around 9/11.  They suggest this emotional pot stirring has led to such negative reactions like the so-called Christian minister who made great publicity for his tiny group by threatening to burn Korans.

Although as of this writing this “minister” has backed off on his sacred book burning plans, he has not backed off on his anti-Islamic rhetoric.  I’m not sure which saddens me more – his idiotic plan or our media’s saturation coverage of his every move.  His 15 minutes of fame are up.  My optimistic nature believes that all aspects of this controversy will ultimately lead to more closure and more healing by more Americans.   My hope is that those who are tired of negativity and fear pushing will band together and say “enough”.

In part one of this article I began with the question – “nine years later where would we like to be in regards to 9/11?”   Where would you like to be?  I know where I would like us all to be.  In a sense, it’s right where I was nine years ago when my heart was opened by the compassion of someone who was on the surface “different” from me.  Just because we notice our outward differences from one another doesn’t preclude us from paying more attention to our inner similarities.  That’s the place I want to live.

What kind of world do you want to live in?  One where our mental and emotional energy is directed toward our differences – skin color, religious, sexual orientation, political beliefs and so on?  Or, one where our mental and emotional energy is directed toward our unity – seeing foremost that we are all spiritual beings moving through this human experience?  One world fosters hate and divisiveness.  One world fosters love and compassion.

Which world do you want?  Where would you like to be in regards to 9/11?

Blessings.

Mark Gilbert

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!