In lunchrooms and cafes, at corner bars and in workplaces across Germany, friends and strangers alike shared stories in the past days about their own personal experiences on September 11 last year.
“Where were you? How did you hear about it?” were questions of the hour.
Everyone had a story worth telling. Each was deeply personal and at the same time universal. For around the world, from Berlin to Bangkok, Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that made memories, a day that will not be forgotten.
This urge to remember, to revisit the not-so-distant past, also ranges from the personal to the collective and throughout Germany – like in many countries around the world – there are a plethora of memorial events planned for Wednesday.
Last year, hundreds of thousands of Germans gathered at the Brandenburg Gate after the attacks to show their support for Americans and to mourn the victims. It was the largest memorial gathering in Europe at the time.
Where the elite say their prayers
The memorial where most of Germany’s elite will go to see and be seen is a noontime ecumenical service at the Berlin Dome. President Johannes Rau, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse are expected to attend – as are Schröder’s opposition in the race for the chancellor’s office, Edmund Stoiber, and American Ambassador Daniel Coats, who has been a sparring partner of Schröder’s since the chancellor announced his opposition to German involvement in a potential U.S. attack on Iraq.
Services will be conducted by both Catholic and Evangelical clergy. Likewise, memorial services are planned in many churches throughout Germany.
In Mainz, the ecumenical and peace service is planned together with leaders of the Jewish and Islamic communities.
Religious differences provoke conflict
While thousands have turned to religion for comfort in the days and months following the attack on the U.S., religion has also become a touchstone of controversy in the past year. And the age-old conflict between religions was undoubtedly heightened in the aftermath.
On Tuesday, a leader of the Lutheran Church in Germany called for an international cooperation to avoid further religious confrontations worldwide. Bishop Christian Krause called for an “open dialogue between religions.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of Germany’s Intercultural Council said on Tuesday that in the past year, many of the 3 million Muslims living in Germany have experienced growing isolation, suspicion and even hatred from their non-Muslim neighbors.
Non-Muslim Germans increasingly have the attitude that Muslims “don’t belong to us,” Jürgen Micksch told the Associated Press. “That’s a big obstacle for integration and for a peaceful co-existence.”
Multicultural attempt to address tensions
In an attempt to address this issue, the organization has formed a so-called Abraham Team comprised of Christians, Jews and Muslims that will visit schools and public events to discuss commonalities and differences among the religions.
Churches are not the only places where memorials are planned. From the soccer field to the stage, tributes ranging from rock concerts to moments of silence are scheduled for Wednesday.
The German Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, conducted by Kent Nagano, will present a memorial concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 (“The Prayer”) among other works. “In the language of music, we’ll make a tribute to the victims and unite in striving towards common ground and in the longing for peace,” said an orchestra press release.
The House of World Cultures is presenting new work from the New York jazz musician Erik Friedlander, who will appear together with his “Trio Rope” group. In addition, the New York string quartet “Ethel”. And religious rocker Sarah Brendel will give a concert in the course of a religious service at Berlin’s Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), a church that was left in ruins from a World War II bombing.
Beyond the stage
For those seeking a literary, philosophical or economic take on the past year, there are other options. The second International Literature Festival takes place at the Berliner Ensemble and will feature a daylong symposium on the causes and effects of September 11. Among the participants are the Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Levy and German author Peter Schneider.
The Dresdner Bank, meanwhile, is presenting a discussion on the political, business and scientific effects of the September 11 attack.
Police say all of these events will take place with heavy security. Airports around Europe also report additional security measures leading up to the anniversary of the U.S. attacks. And German police said airports and train stations will have added safety measure in place on Wednesday.