Arguably, every generation has a moment that defines it. A moment that, when you ask someone where they were and what they were doing, they can most likely tell you. For my parent’s generation it would have been the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. For my grandparent’s generation it would have been the announcement of the end of World War II. For my generation (Generation X), I would suggest that it was the events of September 11th, 2001 that have defined us.
It was roughly 7:30am and I had just arrived on campus; at the time I was attending Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford. I had arrived early as part of my usual routine, enjoying some quiet time and getting some work done. Alone in the student lounge our Dean of Students – the late George Schmidt – walked-in. I said “good morning” to which he replied with something along the lines of… “Something awful has happened”. He turned on the TV and just moments later we watched as the second airplane struck the second tower.
Over the next couple of hours the lounge filled-up with hundreds of students as we all watched in disbelief. Some of us were silent. Some cried. Some prayed. However, despite our various reactions, one thing was for certain – at some level we all knew that things would never be the same again.
Fast-forward to 2017 and suffice it to say that the unsettled feeling we all had within us that day was, sadly, accurate; the recent attack in Manchester serving as just the latest in a series of gut-wrenching reminders. Indeed, my generation is – in the view of many – a generation defined by a new, global terror threat.
For The Record…
Though intellectually I understand the concept of hate, I have never actually understood the essence of hate. At least not hate that stems from the abstract. A hate based on someone’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other such things. To hate someone because their skin color is different, or to hate someone because they love someone of the same gender, just seems so asinine that it makes my head hurt.
Through that lens, as I watched the most recent attack in Manchester, my heart once again broke. Once again a religious fanatic took the lives of innocent civilians based on a hatred rooted in bastardized religious dogma. Of course, with that came the usual religious rhetoric by the ultra-right conservatives who use every tragedy to try and create divisions and perpetuate a hate of their own. And, once again, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief that our society seems to be de-evolving.
But then, something quite remarkable happened. Something that stopped me in my tracks and brought chills to my spine. As I was watching the news online an imagine appeared. The image was that of an elderly Jewish woman and a younger Muslim man. The elderly woman was in a wheel chair, and the man was kneeling next to her. He had her hand in his, and together they were praying, both with tears in their eyes. Though it was rooted in tragedy and pain, it was a beautiful moment; one that made me think to myself… perhaps, not all is lost!
As I conclude this particular column it is that image – or, more accurately put, the message it sends – that I wish to focus on. Simply put, that image was a powerful reminder for me – and hopefully for others – that what unites us is, and always will be, far greater than what divides us. In that spirit, let us continue as a global community to walk hand-in-hand with one-another, celebrate our differences and help one-another remain resilient so that hatred and violence never gets the better of us. As the song say… “we shall overcome”.