Beyond Our Fears: Building Peace After 9/11

Just posted to our Web site, Maryann Cusimano Love remembers 9/11, when her weekly class at the Pentagon was interrupted by the terrorist attack:

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I set out to teach class in the Pentagon, like I did every week. Our class that semester was about emerging security threats posed by terrorism and non-state actors, and my students were military officers and other government officials, who took part in The Catholic University of America’s off-campus graduate programs in international affairs. A dead car battery kept me out of harm's way that morning. My students were not so lucky. Our class studying terrorism found itself under terrorist attack.


People began fleeing the capital on foot, while armed troops appeared on the streets. I prayed and scrambled to reach my students, but phone and e-mail connections were down. I knew my students were in the part of the building that was now a fiery hole. Over the next hours and days my students checked in, one by one. Miraculously, they lost colleagues, but themselves escaped, saved by the position of the water cooler or the desk or some other unexpected protection. After emerging from the burning building, many of them turned around and went back in to help others. Nathan Freier, a veteran, helped the first responders, then began planning the U.S. response. Chaplain Col. David Colwell worked with the investigative teams, blessing human remains as any were recovered, and offering pastoral counseling to grieving families. Lt. Col. William Zemp briefed President George W. Bush after he returned from his zig-zag trip across the country.

Their actions represented a pattern of selfless service to be repeated in the days that followed. Themselves the victims of terrorist attacks, they were now charged with carrying out the U.S. war against terror. Colin Powell, then secretary of state, argued that combating terror should have only a limited military component. Instead, effective counter-terror tools were financial, political, diplomatic and legal. "This is not a war, but is a drawn-out, multi-faceted campaign that will last years," he said. Powell noted that military response is a "blunt instrument" that should be "kept to a minimum." While countering al Qaeda was not a war against Islam, civilian casualties would make it seem that way. The soldiers in our class voiced similar, realistic and prescient concerns about the limitations of military force.

Read the rest here, including Professor Love's call to build a peace that avoids both "the pre-9/11 denial of the [terrorist] problem and the post- 9/11 over-militarized response."

Tim Reidy


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
7 years 6 months ago
Let's take off our American hats and our ideological partisan hats for just a second here folks.

Let's keep on our Catholic souls halo for just a moment. Now, in response to 9/11/01 and the rise of an aggressive and confident civilization that is rising under the banner of Islam....what ought our response be?

I would like to suggest that we advance the line of thought that our ancestors did when faced with the onslaught of the barbarians circa 410 AD.... socio-political tinkering wasn't their thing. Evangelization was.

But where are the calls for Catholics to actively evangelize the Muslim world being raised? Why NOT propose the Gospel to the captives of islam as the 'solution" to their most aggressive groups? Why not challenge those theologically motivated groups themselves to open and public debates on the merits of our mutual truth claims?

I'd hazard a guess because in the west, lots of Catholics harbor doubts as to the truth of our own Church and Gospel so want some sort of neutrality agreement. It might also be that risking martyrdom is definitely "not cool".

But then, in my book, any side that must resort to casual violence against their own people to keep them inline is the weak side, the losing argument. If all they have is the threat of violence to back up their truth claims about God and their prophet.... whereas we Catholics believe not out of fear of the Pope or local bishop, but out of conviction of the reality of Jesus via the theophanies of healing we've personally experienced.... how can we not succeed?

Why not even try? Why waste such energy on relatively 'safe' inside baseball squabbles when vast numbers of fellow human beings are waiting in the shadows to see the light of Christ?


The latest from america

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shakes hands with Alabama State Sen. Henry Sanders at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala., on March 19. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., responded to a question about his religious views by talking about his own faith and what he sees as a distortion of Christianity among U.S. conservatives.
Since retiring from my job, my husband has found me irritating. We had a talk (after fighting), and he is right: I am mothering him. Smothering him. “I have a mother,” he said. “I want a wife, a partner, a best friend.”
Valerie SchultzMarch 25, 2019
Jesus asks us to be generous with the poor. It’s one of the foundations of his public ministry: caring for the poor himself and asking his disciples to do so.
James Martin, S.J.March 25, 2019
We are invited, today, to listen—and as the psalmist today colorfully puts it, God has even done us the courtesy of digging out our ears so that we can hear.