Carol and I left New York City on Sept. 2, 2001, after seeing “The Music Man” the night before on Broadway. Nothing could have prepared us for what lay ahead.
“The Music Man” is about as American and apple pie as any show can be. It portrays our values in a delightful, light-hearted manner.

We had no idea that the innocence in Meredith Wilson’s wonderful work would disappear forever nine days later.

Back in Charleston, S.C., on Sept. 11, I was conducting a workshop on developing supervisory skills with municipal employees as news about the attack began to filter in.

There was not much disruption because everyone thought it was only a small plane accident. By noon, the world knew how wrong our first assumptions were.

For a very short time, our country came together with a sense of communal grief and then a huge spirit of neighbor helping neighbor.

We had all been wounded and shocked. We were catapulted into the horrors of terrorism that the rest of the world already knew.

All too soon our oneness gave way to frustration and rage. Our president expressed our collective hate in language so explosive that even he would come to regret it.

We went to war against people who had done us no harm. We vented our wrath on what we thought was an easy target. We proudly proclaimed, “Shock and Awe.”

Here we are 10 grueling years later still mired in the consequences of our revenge. Our nation has sacrificed its blood, emptied its treasury and forfeited its prestige abroad.

Our national rhetoric has turned acid, and our politicians are locked in a hopeless cauldron of bickering. They do nothing that will benefit anyone except themselves or their party. Revenge exacts a high price.

Clergy from across the religious spectrum proclaimed the virtues of a just war. They skewed the Gospel to fit the situation.

There were few if any messages about turning swords into plows. I am no pacifist, and I have zero formal theological credentials, but even I know you cannot justify war with the teachings of Jesus.

One by one, the architects of the war are now turning on each other, each pointing an accusing finger at the other.

Even though the present administration condemned the war and promised to get us out, it is too timid to make good on those promises.

Two and a half years after the attack, Carol and I walked from Marble Collegiate Church to Ground Zero. A new friend we met in the service walked with us to show us the way.

We forced ourselves to look into that gaping hole that ripped away our sense of security. Seeing it personally is far different from viewing the images on television.

We walked in silence through the nearby St. Paul’s Chapel where George Washington had worshipped, paused by his pew to reflect and pray.

We quietly walked away. Words were not necessary. There were none sufficient to express our anguish.

I am ambivalent about building a memorial on that now sacred spot. Perhaps we should build nothing at all.

Let the hole in the landscape remind us of the gaping hole we have torn in the fabric of this great country with our insistence on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Perhaps the lessons would be worth the price had we learned from what has transpired, but there is little evidence to show that we have.

There are those who are urging us toward yet another war and other voices who want us to continue the folly of this one.

Where are the voices of reason? Where are the voices of peace?

MitchCarnell is a consultant specializing in organizational and interpersonal communication. He is the editor of “Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.” He blogs at He and his wife, Carol, are members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C.

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