This event will be held this year on Sept. 11, from 11:50 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza in downtown Cleveland. Further information is available by checking the webite at: www.awakeninginamerica.us.
The program focuses on a theme of “Hope and Humility,” and it calls on all Americans to cry out in praise and thanksgiving to God and to focus on hope and unity for our churches, our cities and our nation.
Ecumenical worship leaders from across Cleveland and Bradley County will join in this event. It is an honor for me each year to join in this endeavor to awaken each of us to where we are and how far we have come.
This year marks 12 years since our world was turned upside down and thousands lost their lives in this senseless terrorist attack. It was a day that changed the world.
Less than five months after the attack, I joined mayors from across America at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. We met in New York at the site of the attack. The site was still in ruins. Mayor Rudy Giuliani hosted our visit and he reminded us we were walking on hallowed grounds because some people were still buried in the rubble. It was treated as a sacred site because some people were never found.
That visit was a life-changing moment for me and my fellow mayors who visited. My wife, Sandra, and I stood beside the remains of the Twin Towers. We met and talked with surviving firefighters and rescue workers. And we met a few family members of people who lost their loved ones on that day.
After the 911 attack, people around the world were praying, holding prayer vigils and comforting one another through the comfort of God’s word. There arose a new awakening to God’s sovereignty, His Power, His Grace.
Cleveland’s faith in God is apparent throughout this community. A good example is a communitywide July Fourth celebration that has become a tradition. In it, we honor God and Country, and we thank God for our freedoms. It’s well attended and it grows every year.
Many places in Cleveland will begin displaying the United States flag outside every home, apartment, office and store front. Every individual should make it their duty to display our flag on this anniversary of one our country's worst tragedies. We do this in honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11/2001, their families, friends and loved ones who continue to endure the pain, and those who today are fighting at home and abroad to preserve our cherished freedoms. Our patriotism pulled us through some tough times and it shouldn't take another attack to galvanize us in solidarity.
This tragic event also united us together as one county Under God and helped each of us to refocus our lives on what’s important. It was a re-awakening.
When people argue separation of church and state, I merely remind them that every day Congress opens with prayer, given by a chaplain. It dates back to 1787 with the inclusion of a prayer before the opening of each session of both the House and the Senate, tracing its origins back to the days of the Continental Congress, and the official recommendation of Benjamin Franklin, June 28, 1787:
He wrote, “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel ... I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.”
It was true in the days of Benjamin Franklin and it’s true today. When tragedy strikes, we need the comfort that only comes from knowing God.
I urge every Clevelander to join us Sept. 11 at 11:50 a.m., and take just a few minutes of your day to attend the public event at the Bradley County Courthouse.
May we never forget 911, the lives lost and the lessons learned.