Saturday, September 11, 2004


O New York, Washington, and Shanksville,
may my right arm wither.

It has been three years, and the memories are still fresh, just below the surface of our daily consciousness.

Today we concluded our services with a special Service of Remembrance to honor those who lost their lives in the horrendous terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. At the end, we sang “America the Beautiful.” And, oh, was that tough.

Since 9/11, I cannot sing “America the Beautiful” without getting moist eyes and a catch in the throat. The rarely-sung third verse resonates with special poignancy now:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown Thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
I used to think that “America the Beautiful” was a much better candidate for our national anthem than “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which at its core is nothing but a paean to a scrap of cloth that survived a battle, set to the melody of an old drinking song. AtB is easier to sing; it doesn’t require a tremendous range. It evokes images of what makes our land great. And now that we are once again at war, I’m even more convinced. So what if it has no bursting bombs, no rockets? How can you hear that third verse without feeling a pang – and remembering that we are now fighting World War IV against the Cult of Jihadism?

It’s a war we must win. May our alabaster cities never again be dimmed by dust, debris, smoke, and human tears.

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