DCC News


Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church


September 14 , 2007



On the Front Lines in Toledo


I suppose it is true that September 11 is this generation’s December 7.


I am referring to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York , the Pentagon and Pennsylvania . It was a tragic day for all. My parent’s generation recalls December 7 with the same tragic circumstances. It is something that they and we cannot shake from our consciousness.


I am writing this on Tuesday the 11th and remember well Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Like so many others, I heard about it first on the radio and then saw the Twin Towers collapse as I watched on television. I mourn the loss of innocent lives. We honor the bravery of those first responders and ultimately our soldiers who were sent to the front lines.


The complexity of that day and those hours is still played out every day by millions around the globe in very simple, everyday things.


If you drive Interstate 75 on the west side of the state, you will travel from the Ohio River Valley through Cincinnati, Dayton, Lima and approach the flat, farm fields of Northwestern Ohio past Bowling Green as you near Toledo. Rising out of the farm fields are the minarets of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, Ohio. I see them every time I drive north and am still amazed. It’s a grand site and one that this Ohio-bred boy is not used to seeing on Ohio soil. Yet it is one that has been there for 24 years.


I recently read an article about the Islamic Center in “The Christian Science Monitor.” I was surprised to learn that the center was founded 75 years ago by Syrian-Lebanese immigrants. The current Islamic Center edifice was built in the mid 80’s and  they elected the first woman president of a mosque in the US and perhaps in the world in 2001. It is said that they had an open door policy and engaged visitors and interfaith endeavors long before the events of September 11, 2001.


The Center was not immune from threats after 9/11 as someone shot out one of the Center’s stained-glass windows and its voicemail was filled with threatening calls.


Today the Islamic Center is a community of 550 families and Muslims of 23 nationalities, both Sunnis and Shiites and there is within the community a certain tension between liberal and conservative tendencies for interpreting Islam.


I have kept that community of Americans, Ohioans in my thoughts and prayers recently and compare their journey to that of my German ancestors who came to Ohio and worshipped in a German speaking Reformed Church not far away in Lima . World War I and WW II found my relatives keeping a lower profile for fear of being seen as Germans first and Americans second.




My thoughts this week also turn to the victims in the Twin Towers , Pentagon and Pennsylvania . I remember reading the obituaries of the victims in the “New York Times.” NY Times reporters began writing portraits of the victims in a special section of the newspaper.  They decided to focus on how the victim lived, not how he/she died. The portraits were short but “tried to capture some detail or anecdote that would express each person’s individuality.”


I can certainly relate to that. As a minister who officiates at many funerals, I have found a hunger by the mourners for stories of how the deceased lived, not died. The NY Times reporters did a remarkable job and they wrote 1,910 portraits of the 2,749 victims. They would have written about them all but some families wished not to participate and other families could not be found. The portraits are collected in the book Portraits 9/11/01.


Many of the victims loved the music of Bruce Springsteen and that was brought out in the individual portraits. Springsteen himself noticed that and so he started calling the spouses of the victims on the telephone to express his condolences. Many expressed their thanks for his thoughtfulness.


I am reading of memorials this week in New York City and Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania . I am also reading of Bin Laden and his latest video release, which praises the perpetrators of the terror. He calls them martyrs. It is so very strange to read both sides of the story as I sit in my office. I almost feel as if I am floating above the earth gazing at two sides of the globe, listening in on two different understandings of the same event. And indeed, I am. You are too.


And so, this week, I try to dwell on the stories that give strength to us all. Here is what happened, then, the week of 9/11 in 2001 at the Islamic Center in Toledo after they had received threatening calls.


As reported in the “Christian Science Monitor, When news of these threats became known, the Islamic Center “heard from a local Christian radio station that they wanted to help – to invite people to come encircle the mosque and pray for their protection. While they expected about 300 people, the crowd grasping hands around the complex reached 1,500. The Imam had bought Hershey Kisses and put them in baskets to distribute.”


The evening was beautiful and the traffic there, just south of Toledo was a mile long trying to reach the Center. They had to postpone the service so that all could participate.


That was a simple, rather brave thing to do for some Ohioans in the days after 9/11. Perhaps we should honor them for being in on the “front lines” as we have done for the other brave people in New York City , the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania .



Peace,   Bob