After the accounting of the dead,
when the insurance claims are settled,
and the markets are back to their normal jittery selves,
we have all seen what Hell looks like. In future
we will avoid tall buildings, slowly move away
from cities, fly less often, view
our fellow passengers with circumspection,
seek refuge in more virtual reality and trade
within the safer evils of the Internet.
We listen doubtfully to our leaders’ words
as they struggle to fill their own shoes.
Four planes just flew out of Pandora’s box,
and when men armed just with razor blades can bring
the whole wide world up to a juddering halt
we know too much and care too little
to believe that this will be the last time.
The big game of Monopoly is over.
The losers’ tantrums have become too dangerous.
Even before our anger cools we see
the moral high ground is just
a pile of smoking rubble. Jesus kneels
and writes with his index finger in
the white dust of Manhattan:
Let him who is without sin
launch the first missile.
Who is our enemy
and what can we fight him with?
Where are our allies? Where was God
on September the Eleventh? He was begging
in old clothes in the subway
beneath the World Trade Centre.
He was homeless in Gaza,
imprisoned in Afghanistan,
starving in Somalia,
dying of Aids in an Angolan slum,
suffering everywhere in this fast-shrinking world;
and boarding a plane unwittingly in Boston,
heading for meeting on the 110th floor.
When the time came he stretched his arms out once again
to take the dreadful impact that would pierce his side.
His last message on his fading cell phone
once more to ask forgiveness for them all, before
his body fell under the weight of so much evil.
We bring our cameras to his massive tomb
for any chance of resurrection, now we know
the kind of story that it really is,
united by this common enemy –
sin’s terrorism – that we never dreamed
could bring such devastation. This is war.
We line our weapons up: faith, hope, obedience,
prayer, forgiveness, justice;
the explosive power of love.
(Author's note: This is the last section of a longer poem which was first read at St Johns Church in Ealing, London on September 16th 2001. This version has been reproduced in hundreds of publications and websites. Part of it was used by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the memorial service for the 9/11 dead in Westminster Abbey.)
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