If you google 9/11 and freemasonry, the never-ending list of absolutely absurd conspiracy theorists flood your browser. Ask any freemason at any level of our organization and they will tell you plainly, the conspiracy theories that surround the fraternity are ridiculous. Freemasons are not ultra-powerful, diabolical deviants seeking world domination and planning wars. Freemasons are firefighters, businessmen, fathers, brothers, and sons. In fact, statistics would suggest that some of the people who died in the 9/11 attacks were probably freemasons.
Freemasonry teaches acceptance of views that are different than your own and has for ages been a place where people with some differences in religious belief can come together and work for a common good. If anything, we are an organization hell-bent on preventing atrocities like 9/11, so please remember that next time you hear someone spouting some nonsense about how we’re “behind” some evil event.
Having said that, I’m not just a freemason. I am also a millennial who was just old enough to remember how things were pre-9/11 and understand how so much changed. Here is my reflection on 9/11 as I wrote it this morning as I looked at a photo of my father with George W. Bush:
September 11, 2001
I was sitting in Mrs. Poehls’ social studies classroom when a childhood friend walked in and whispered something to the teacher. I distinctly recall watching the color run out of her face. I remember the girl I had a crush on was sobbing after we learned what happened in New York because how could something so horrible happen on her birthday? I was eleven years old and I did and said some really weird things in the days that followed and looking back now, I realize I was trying to figure out how to digest the sudden realization that a complete stranger could make up his mind to force an airplane of people into a building and kill thousands of people. A very good counselor proved to be one of the most careful and understanding people I have ever met and helped me to navigate the anxieties that come with being an eleven year old kid who just had his picturesque idea of the world shattered to pieces.
Today, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Muslim, straight or gay, or any other label we so often fight about. Today, we are Americans and fifteen years ago, we learned that all of those labels really don’t mean a
damn thing when the very core of our identity as Americans is under attack. This photo shows my father with President Bush at the Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford after MRE Sheet Metal completed the roof and metal work on Bush’s home. I think it was January of 2001 and I’m sharing the photo because I hope you’ll look at the face of the man who had just been sworn in to lead our nation. He’s youthful and relaxed… unrestrained. He’s at ease. And so were we. America still had a crush on musicians like Faith Hill, Usher, and Jennifer Lopez. We were not long removed from the “scares” of the non-existent threat that was Y2K. And then on September 11, the picturesque idea America had of the world and of herself was suddenly shattered to pieces. The color ran out of the President’s face and he was suddenly confronted by one of the most difficult eras in American history from which any President has had to emerge.
I honestly don’t think I have ever again seen his face as relaxed and unrestrained as it was in this photo. I also think I have yet to see America relax and become unrestrained by the fears that 9/11 struck into us. Today, I pray that some day that changes. I pray that the children growing up right now who don’t remember 9/11 will see a time that feels as easy as life in America did back then. In the world where we now live, it is impossible for children to understand that these things just didn’t happen.
All year long, Americans have been at each others’ throats. There’s racism and misogyny and xenophobia and general hatred flung around by virtually all parties in one way or another. “You either agree with me on this issue or I hate you and we cannot talk…”
…but not today. I don’t care how much you disagree with me today. Today, you’re an American and I love you.
September 11, 2016
Robert Marshall, Past Master of Waco Lodge 92