The scale of this photo, and FDNY Asisstant Chief Gerard Barbara standing looking upward, speaks to the human moment of 9/11–unbelievable tragedy, overwhelming responsibility, impossible odds. But it shows something else. At Barbara’s funeral, his son Paul said this about the last time his father was seen alive, heading toward the Towers: “He didn’t run, he didn’t panic – he was just walking, thinking of how to fix the greatest calamity in human history.”
That speaks for the need of every crisis we face as human beings, every single day—that we not run, not panic, but rather keep moving as we attempt to work out a way to overcome.
I remember the feeling of unity we had as a country following 9/11, the sense of standing together, of unity of purpose. It didn’t last as long then as I would have liked, but it was helpful in a time when we as a nation needed healing.
We need healing again.
We have been attacked again, only this time is different. It is different because our attackers aren’t human, but are microscopic viruses. It is different because we are as divided as any time in my life I can remember. And instead of loving one another and encouraging one another to keep going, we are fighting and tearing each other apart at a startling rate. Instead of rallying around those who have lost loved ones, we hurl stones at one another for the sake of proving our point of view.
“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” That command from Jesus mattered on 9/11 when Assistant Chief Barbara and hundreds of others willingly gave their lives trying to save others.
And it still matters today.