Kittredge: Shifting Ground

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Visit: Remembering 9/11

(HOST) As the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11 draws
near, commentator Susan Cooke Kittredge is thinking about the meaning
of the words "Ground Zero".

(KITTREDGE) The term "Ground Zero" refers to the point on the earth’s surface closest
to where a major detonation occurred.

The monument in Nagasaki that commemorates the site on which the atom
bomb exploded is startling for its simplicity. 
In the center, the ground zero of the explosion, stands a black
sculpture and radiating out in increasingly wide concentric circles are simple
stone pathways, curving around the point of impact.  It speaks of the expanding quality of such a
major event and suggests the ripples that have reached the farthest corners of
our planet and lives.

Though Ground Zero in Manhattan remained unofficially adorned for ten
years, the reverberations from the event have continued to affect our world in both dramatic and
subtle ways.

Before that fateful Tuesday, if I had been asked what grounded me, what
anchored my life, my answer, I think, would have been
different than it is today.  Because for
all of us, the ground on which we stand, whether literal or metaphorical has

Though I might not have clearly articulated or admitted it, being born a
white Anglo-Saxon protestant in the 20th century bestowed on me a certain assumed entitlement, especially in the
United States.  A child of parents from
the generation that proudly, if not humbly, called itself the "greatest
generation," I was raised with an expectation that the world was my oyster,
that I could be or do anything I wanted.

What I would have said with clarity was that my faith grounded me and
that my family was my anchor to that faith and the world.  Though this view of my faith has not changed,
how I see myself today in relation to the world
is markedly different.  No longer do I
have an underlying assurance of safety, whether political, financial or
social.  Being white now feels a bit like
a fresh quart of milk with an expiration date; I know my sweet days have been

The ground beneath us has changed and we stand on an altered earth.  We know clearly that our energy policies
directly affect our political security; we know that the resources of the
planet are finite and that if we continue to exploit them, whole continents of
people will suffer disastrous consequences. 
We have learned about different faiths and perhaps come to see that it
is the practice of our beliefs, how we live in the world rather than why, that
will unite rather than separate us. 
Though our traditions differ, our common humanity can bring us together
if we treat one another with the respect and compassion that is fundamentally
called for by all faiths.

We walk on an earth that is in some places cracking from drought while in
others drowning in rising water; Tropical Storm Irene drove this home with a
rushing fury. Though the events of Sept 11, 2001 were terrifying, my ardent prayer is that the emanating circles of consequence
will bring us together, for we all stand on the shifting ground we lovingly
call home.

Visit VPR’s Remembering 9/11 Page


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