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Remembering 9/11 on the 10th Anniversary

Nearly all Americans, except for the very young, remember that terrible day and how it affected them.

My wife and I long ago made a decision that our home would be a "television-free zone." It is truly amazing how much more you can live without what has become for many an intrusive medium. And our children are more likely to be part of the family when there is no television to watch. 

It is always important to be aware of what is happening in the world at large, our own beautiful country and specifically our community.  Here in Malibu, it's important to monitor local road conditions or, more recently, water leaks that threaten our major transportation artery—Pacific Coast Highway. And with storms, fire and even earthquakes, it's critical to keep informed. But with the Internet, the Cunin family has never felt, here in Malibu, metaphorically or practically adrift. 

There is one uniquely tragic day that stands out. And because it is so memorable, we must be able to remember all of it—vividly and immediately. And not just to remember; we must actively do everything we can to make sure that such a horrific tragedy should never occur again.

It is not hyperbole to describe what I write about today, and what we as a nation commemorate this week, which for most of us became a life-changing moment. For some, it may have been a one-time flash that was soon extinguished as they returned to business as usual. I hope this week they will reconsider and reflect on one of the early defining days of the 21st century.

Of course, I am talking about 9/11. It is now 10 years later. But does it seem like a full decade has passed? On that day, a friend active in —knowing that I did not have a television—called me. As he briefly alerted me to what was happening at the World Trade Center in New York City, I assured him I would quickly bring myself up to speed. I called other friends who live a few minutes away, and I hurried to their home to watch the events unfold.

Like many Americans, I watched intently, almost fearful to leave. I was not glued to an original soap opera or highly dramatic series. I was watching history unfolding. We were all beyond shocked, glued to the TV in suspense, as we were watching with horror not knowing what to expect. Could this be for real? What will this lead to? 

Ask my parents and the people of their generation, they may not recall the date when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but they most surely remember exactly when and where they heard the news. The same is true for those who remember the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And so now, for 9/11, nearly all Americans, except for the very young, remember that terrible day and how it affected them.  

The horrific drama seemed surreal. The endless replay of the collapse of the towers seemed like Hollywood special effects. But this was happening—in real time. And no one really knew what has happening next. As the day continued, and in the ensuing days, we began to grasp the diabolical evil that was so intense that it transcended all talk about issues and policies, ideology and politics. If humanity could not agree that wiping out innocent lives to make a political statement was not absolutely and unquestionably evil and immoral, then could we ever have a consensus on anything?

"One who is quick to understand and quick to forget—his flaw cancels his virtue" —Avot 5-12

In recollecting that fateful day, there is so much to remember. The innocent lives that were taken and those who were left wounded. The heroes who gave their life for others and the families of all who perished.

"Knowing the sickness is half of the cure." —The sages

In trying to understand the "sickness" that produced the events of 9/11, we must be cognizant of the forces of darkness that preach and teach hatred to innocent children in the name of religion and G-d.

And as we forge forward for a better tomorrow, I recall what I have been taught by my teacher: Proper education of true values is the greatest and most potent weapon against the doctrines that produce hatred and extremism.

May the pain of 9/11 serve as a constant reminder. May the memory of those who perished be a source of light for their families and for all true peace- and love-seeking human beings, wherever they may find themselves.

One people under G-d.

Mr. Malibu September 09, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Dear Rabbi Cunin, I love your ethic of no TV - as it is largely invasive, much of the invasion through assaults from commercials telling us to call our doctors every two minutes. Proper education is a huge part of the solution to peace and it would be so valuable if there were a global organization dedicated to identifying and implementing specific plans for peace- an organization that is not tied to a religion or government. Though I know peace begins within each person, the thousands of billions of dollars spent on war should at the very minimum be matched by expenditures to create peace until we realize that peace is more profitable than war on every level.
Rabbi Levi Cunin September 09, 2011 at 06:00 PM
Thank you Mr. Malibu! I love it, time to "sell" peace as a profitable venture! Perhaps appealing to the greed factor would get more mileage:) well said! In regards to T.V., today we must also deal with the growing obsession, especially among the young, with computers and computer games, in which life becomes merely "virtual" reality. It makes me wonder how lost and alone these kids would be if there was a prolonged blackout...
Mr. Malibu September 11, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Dear Rabbi Cunin, your insightful question re: obsession w VR games- is ironically explained in this NYT article today: The United States government offers tax incentives to companies pursuing medical breakthroughs, urban redevelopment and alternatives to fossil fuels. It also provides tax breaks for a company whose hit video game this year was the gory Dead Space 2, which challenges players to advance through an apocalyptic battlefield by killing space zombies. (Video Game) Dead Space 2 shipped more than two million copies in its first week. Those tax incentives — a collection of deductions, write-offs and credits mostly devised for other industries in other eras — now make video game production one of the most highly subsidized businesses in the United States, says Calvin H. Johnson, who has worked at the Treasury Department and is now a tax professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Marshall Thompson September 12, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Dear Rabbi Cunin, while watching the solemn 9/11 memorial activities I remarked on the general absence of mention of who and what the perpetrators of the violence against the United States were and are: radical, international Islam. The event on 9/11/01 was not a one-time thing, and the enemies of America and the liberal West will not rest until they have destroyed us. These Islamic radical jihadists - who number in the millions worldwide - would gleefully vaporize you and every Jew and Christian on the planet. And yet we find little or no mention of them in our memorials and commentary. However, we do have time to condemn violent video games (which I also detest). I find this silence curious.

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