For the Rev. Leonard Hamlin, this Sept. 11 began with a rush of memories. Hamlin, pastor of the Macedonia Baptist Church, told the audience at Mount Olive Baptist Church, that Sept. 11, 2003, brought an early reminder of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I received a call on my cell phone from Maj. Tabitha Patterson, the wife of Maj. Clifford Patterson,” said Hamlin. “My day began with a memory of the conversations we had, and the conversations we continue to have.”
The interfaith church service, organized by Arlington’s Community Resilience Project, was itself a kind of conversation, a discussion carried on between the leaders of different faiths, survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and community members who lived through the two-year-old tragedy. Starting at noon in Mount Olive, 1601 S. 13th Road, the service wrapped up shortly after two, following blessings in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Spanish and English.
“Terrorism knows no religion,” said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, head of the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Falls Church. “There are no Jewish terrorists, no Christian terrorists, no Muslim terrorists. Any time you see killing, it’s a sin before God.”
In the face of fanaticism, Abdul-Malik offered an anagrammatic hope. “H is for Hard work, but we also have to have Humor,” he said. “O is Optimism, when we know God is in charge. … P is Patience, and Perseverance. But we also get a free gift: Endurance, the free gift the Almighty provides when we get a second wind.”
<b>ENDURANCE HELPED</b> draw out the real message of Sept. 11, said U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-8). In the days immediately after the attacks, he said, the prevailing attitude was immense grief, tempered by a lust for revenge.
“The terrorists thought that by destroying the World Trade towers, they would show us that even symbols of U.S. wealth and stature could be attacked,” said Moran. “At the Pentagon, they thought they would show us that even a sign of our might and power was vulnerable.”
But vulnerability and destruction, grief and vengeance were not the real messages of Sept. 11, he said. The real message was human resilience. “Our response has to be that we reach out to all potential victims, but also all potential terrorists, with a message of faith, hope and love,” said Moran. “That’s why a service like this is so important.”
Just before Moran spoke, County Board chair Paul Ferguson (D) asked the audience to observe a moment of silence.
“This is where the plane went by, almost right where it happened,” said Ferguson. “I would ask us to close our eyes and remember where we were two years ago.”
<b>AS PROOF OF</b> those memories, Linda Moore offered her own memories of Sept. 11, 2001. “Two years ago, I was running for my life,” said Moore. A Pentagon employee, she was sitting at her desk on that morning when the plane hit.
“I thought a bomb had hit,” Moore said. “Once, I thought the Pentagon was the safest place in the world. I don’t think that anymore. I’m no more special than the people who died.”
She told the audience how she waited to leave her office, knowing that her boss was trapped. Eventually she, and he, escaped into the Pentagon’s central courtyard. “I felt the presence of the Lord,” Moore said. “I felt a moment when I thought I was going to die. But I felt a presence, a presence like, ‘Peace be with you.’
This Sept. 11 was a day for Moore’s memories, said Hamlin. “Not just the painful memories, but memories of rising again,” he said. “We struggle trying to separate the good from the bad, the strong from the weak. But the truth is, some things are meant to be together.”
The good and the bad, he said, in memories of Sept. 11, are like two sides of a coin. As a child, Hamlin said, when he first learned to flip a coin, he flipped and flipped and flipped, “and it kept coming up the same way: tails.” He turned to his father, and asked if heads would ever come up.
“Flip it again.” Hamlin said his father told him, as the audience urged him on.
“So I did, and I flipped it some more, and eventually it came up heads,” Hamlin said. The audience cheered him on. “My father said, ‘I didn’t know when it would come up, but I knew it would.’”
So to people who can’t find good memories, the memories of a rebirth, Hamlin offered advice. “Keep on flipping,” he said, and the audience cheered.