by Gregg Braden
What we must bear in
mind is that the choices made in the next hours and days will set
the course of human history for generations to come.
Our world changed on
September 11, 2001. This is, perhaps,
the one fact of which we may be absolutely certain during a time of
tremendous uncertainty. It has been approximately 48 hours since the
tragedy that has fallen upon the United States began.
The fact that
it has taken two days to write about what we have experienced tells
me how deeply I have been affected by the horror of the events that
we have witnessed, along with the rest of the world, in ways that
may take months, or longer, to fully comprehend.
I had just arrived in Melbourne, Australia for a series of
conferences when the local programming was interrupted with the
first images of devastation and the unforgettable images of a
burning New York City skyline. Witnessing the tragedy and grief of
our country, while being half a world away, has truly been a
profound experience. Additionally, it has afforded me a unique
opportunity to see America through the eyes of the people in another
The experience has truly been life-altering.
We Are Not Alone
During the taxi ride from my hotel to the airport on the first day
of the reports, people were openly sobbing in the hotel lobby, on
the streets, sidewalks and through the airport concourses.
Everywhere I turned, crowds were huddled around television monitors
hoping to glean additional information from U.S. stations -
something that would help them to make sense of the horror they were
witnessing from the live video feeds that have now become engrained
into our memories.
What has become abundantly clear during the last two days is that
the U.S. is not alone in this time of grief and tragedy. Immediately
following the first reports, our office began receiving emails of
sympathy and support from our friends throughout the world, messages
from nearly every continent.
The outpouring of sympathy, friendship and unity from our Australian
neighbors has been particularly overwhelming. The many messages of
condolence for our country, the loss of families and rescue teams
that I have received personally have been constant, heartfelt, and
they continue. As I am writing this memo, teams of Australian
firefighters and relief crews are making plans to arrive in New York
when the airspace is opened again, to offer relief to the teams that
have been working nonstop for nearly three days.
While we may not
hear of it on a daily basis, this was a reminder of the powerful
bond and deep friendship that exists between the US and the rest of
our Global family.
Where Do We Go From
The tragedy that has fallen upon our nation has placed world
leaders, and individuals alike, into the uneasy position of
There are no models, strategies or manuals, no
one to turn to with detailed procedures as to where we go from here.
How are we to respond to such an unconscionable act carried out by
faceless perpetrators resulting in unimaginable losses?
How do our
leaders balance the anger of a nation with the most sophisticated
arsenal of military power that the world has ever known?
shown us that there are no "pat", predetermined answers to these
questions. There are only our choices that result from what we know
and believe to be true, information that changes by the hour.
In the aftermath of the last hours and days, the magnitude of what
has happened is surpassed only by the uncertainty of what comes
next. This, by far, is the greatest fear that I have heard
expressed. The events that have unfolded leave us at a particularly
perilous crossroads teetering between our emotions of outrage and
the need for retribution and a longing for reason. What are we to
What we must bear in mind is that the choices made in the next hours
and days will set the course of human history for generations to
The magnitude of the events within the last days has opened a deep
wound in the consciousness of our nation and the civilized world; a
void that seeks to be filled quickly, to balance the emptiness.
Whatever rushes in to fill the void of our nation's loss will set
the stage for events of lasting consequences and irreversible
effects. Do we fill the void with an overwhelming display of force
and power to quell the pain of a grieving nation, or do we fill the
void with the measured response of a nation demonstrating to the
world that we have truly entered an unprecedented era of dealing
with conflict through new and innovative ways?
Albert Einstein stated that the problems of our world cannot
be solved with the same thinking that created the problems to begin
with. The events of September 11, 2001 may well represent the first
opportunity in the new millennium for the most powerful nation in
the history of the earth to demonstrate to the world that there is
another way to deal with those who oppose our ideals of peace and
The choices that we make as a people will define us as a
nation and lay the foundation of global policies for generations to
What Do We Do?
Clearly, there is nothing that can justify the unthinkable acts of
tragedy and pre-meditated attacks that have resulted in the loss of
so many lives. Just as clearly, there is nothing that we can do to
any individual or any nation to bring back the immeasurable number
of lives that have been lost.
Our office has been flooded with telephone calls and email messages
asking a simple question:
"What do we do?"
I will be the first to state clearly that I do not have "the answer"
to this question.
Each individual must find a way to reconcile the
events of the last days in their minds and in their hearts.
Sometimes it helps to break the big problems into manageable pieces.
I offer the following as guidelines only, in an effort to serve
those who have asked for recommendations and guidance.
With these ideas in mind, our first actions must be near-term:
- To care for
- To search for survivors.
- To support our rescue and recovery teams, our
governmental and organizational leaders. Clearly our nation has
been attacked. We must demonstrate that not only has the attack
failed to fragment our country, it has melded our nation into a
unified force of support and solidarity.
- To take the necessary precautions to secure our nation
in the presence of the very real threat of additional attacks.
- To choose
our response wisely and responsibly
- To understand that the policies of "globalization" have
melded us into a global family. The choices made over the next
days and weeks will affect all people of all nations and have
the potential of lasting consequences for the quality of life
and the future of our world.
- To invoke our power of prayer, a very real power that
quantum science now defines as our ability to participate in a
unified web of energy that links all of creation.
- Through our prayers, empower our leaders to choose
wisely, with the guidance of our creator, for the good of all
people with the long-term vision of a global peace rather than a
short-term goal of balancing an act of terror.
3. Ultimately, to realize that there is no "them"
and "us." We share the same world and there is a "we"
- different aspects of the same conscious body. When the dust
has settled, ultimately, we must look deep within ourselves to
know what it is within ourselves that is mirrored by
increasingly greater acts of terror and destruction.
dysfunctional families, to school shootings, to acts of terror
against the United States on foreign soil, to the attacks upon
our own soil, we are witnessing a pattern of increasingly
greater acts of anger and lack of respect for human life
directed toward Americans. Imposing a military action on the
"outside" does not change the thinking that led to the acts to
begin with. If we have the wisdom to recognize the language of
"mirrors," we will have witnessed an obvious indication of the
need for change.
Though we may each feel as though we are being tested, the oldest
texts of humankind suggest that moments such as this can become less
of a test and more of an opportunity to demonstrate to the world,
and to one another, precisely the kind of people and nation that we
As we consider our response to the tragedies, we must remember that
we are no longer responding alone. Our response will have
implications that reach deep into the hearts and the streets of our
closest allies and most distant neighbors. While a response is
certainly warranted, the world is looking to us, the most powerful
nation in the history of the earth, to temper our response with
reason, justice and a consideration for our global family and
I invite you to join me in a prayer empowering our leaders with the
wisdom of a greater power as they implement their choices of
response. Utilizing our "lost mode of prayer" identified in the
Great Isaiah Scroll, where we feel as if the outcome has already
occurred, rather than asking for intervention, our prayer may begin
Dear God, In this time of great tragedy, we give thanks for the
courage within our leaders to recognize the difference between the
anger in their minds, the wisdom of their hearts and the courage to
act wisely in their choices.
May each leader have the strength to act for the good of all people,
in all nations and our collective future as a global family.
Through this prayer we claim that peace, democracy and human life
are stronger and more enduring than the buildings that symbolize
them. We breathe life into their existence from the dust of hate
that is transformed by our soil.