9/11/11 What Might Have Been; What Could Be

There has been an endless array of 9/11 programming leading up to this 10-year remembrance day.  I had seen a number of these programs before and others presented information most of us are already familiar with. However two programs were particularly memorable for me.

The first program was The Man Who Knew. Shown on the PBS series, Frontline, it was the story of John O’Neill, an FBI agent who was a leading expert on Al Qaeda and who tried to warn authorities of its threat to the U.S. However John had not found favour among certain powers-that-be in the FBI and by the summer of 2001, he had been marginalized and then pushed out of the FBI.

John found security work at the World Trade Center. On the evening of September 10, 2001, a friend commented that he should be safe in the WTC; it had already been a target. John disagreed, he said that Al Qaeda wanted to finish the job. In one of the saddest ironies of 9/11, the man who had tried so hard to warn of an upcoming attack was at his new job in the World Trade Center on that fateful day and among the many who perished. What might have been…

I just heard the second program today. It was only a small segment on a CBC  early Sunday morning radio broadcast, but its topic is had a big impact on me.* A CBC producer, Mary Wiens, reported on how a small portion of the Old Testament, a story that the Bible and the Koran share, was bringing Jews and Muslims together.

It is the story of Ishmael and Isaac, both sons of Abraham, a story that marks the beginnings of the antipathy between these two groups. You may be familiar with it. Abraham was childless in old age, yet God had promised him descendants more numerous than the stars. His wife Sarah was also an old woman and had been barren all their married life. At Sarah’s urging, he took Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, and fathered a child with her, Ishmael. A number of years later, as an old woman, Sarah miraculously conceived a child and Isaac was born.

In time jealousy grew between the two women and Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. So begins the sad saga of the hatred between the Arab peoples and the Israelites. However, there is a seed of hope in this story. When Abraham died, Isaac and Ishmael put aside their differences and came together to bury their father. Building on this hope, in the present day some Mosques and Synagogues are coming together in this same spirit, recognizing their common heritage in this ancient patriarch.

Now if all of us could contribute to this spirit of cooperation, just imagine what could be….


*The podcast of this CBC program will not be posted until tomorrow. I will add the link then. In the meantime, this link will provide some background (click on “Listen” under Isaac and Ishmael):



2 comments on “9/11/11 What Might Have Been; What Could Be

  1. If you get a chance, read the book “The Man Who Warned America” by Murray Weiss on the same topic. It’s especially significant for my family because my husband was a childhood friend of John O’Neill’s son. It was interesting to compare the man as seen through the eyes of a child with the background researched history of his life.

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