"Remembrance is an important duty," said Rev. Tom Bailey, the pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Abiding Presence, addressing a nearly full sanctuary. "It is to our advantage to remember those we have lost."
Those gathered in the church Sunday afternoon came together to remember the nearly 3,000 who lost their lives in the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, now four years past but still painful. They also came together to think of the countless lost to Hurricane Katrina nearly two weeks ago.
"A rock was dropped into the pond of the world and we are still feeling its ripples," he said, mentioning the wars against the Taliban in Afghanistan and "unseen enemies" in Iraq in the years since the 9/11 attacks.
Many parallels of loss and devastation were made between the attacks and the hurricane as he compared the huge losses of life at the hand of man or nature. "In times of tragedy, we ask why there is so much evil let loose in the world. We ask where was God? Why do the innocent always seem to be the ones to suffer," he said, universal questions that cannot easily be answered.
The questions asked by so many are similar to those asked in the book of Job, "the book of the Bible that asks more questions than any other book," Bailey said, a book that "deals with human tragedy. Job was a righteous man but his whole life was suddenly wiped out, seemingly without reason."
It is good to mourn, but important to continue to live, Bailey said to those gathered in his church. "The God we meet in scripture is a god of hope and love, who feels the pain and hurt we feel and helps us to cast out fear from our lives. It is the God that was there in the last moments of 9/11 when people picked up their cell phones and called loved ones to say I love you and good bye. God is there in the uniforms of firemen and nurses and doctors and relief workers along the Gulf Coast right now," he said.
MUSICIANS FROM eight churches, the Fairfax Choral Society and American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra gathered to perform Faure's "Requiem," conducted by Bob Lansell, musical director at the Church of the Abiding Presence. The lyrics for the piece talk of redemption, salvation, hope and freedom from pain and fear, a piece fitting for a day of remembrance.
"This was a very emotional performance," said Laura Carlson, one of two soloists. "Having the translation into English in the program brings much more to light than just listening to the piece in Latin," she said.
Carlson was just beginning to home school her then 6-year-old daughter when the attacks occurred. "My mother called to tell me to turn on my TV and for the longest time, we didn't understand what was going on," she said. "It still feels like yesterday."
Carlson was fortunate enough not to know anyone directly involved or lost in the attacks, but the pain has stayed with her. "It was a tragedy, but hopefully we'll learn to grow and spare others the same loses we've felt," she said.
The Requiem mass was "a wonderful way to remember" those who were lost, said church member Nancy Cooley. "It was a very moving performance. Specific people came to mind when I was listening to it but you can't help but think of our more recent national tragedy," she said, referring to those suffering from Hurricane Katrina.
Words in the piece referring to a day of "wrath, calamity and misery" were significant to Liz Quigley, another member of the congregation. "That's really what today is all about," she said. "When it all started four years ago, we were glued to our TV sets. We're still transfixed. You think about all those pictures of people jumping out of buildings."
Quigley moved to America from England 11 years ago but said on that day, it didn't matter where anyone came from. "We were all Americans on that day, regardless of where you lived," she said.
Lansell said he chose the "Requiem" because "it's a classic piece. This piece was one of the reasons a lot of our musicians agreed to perform today," he said.