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Questions for reflection about the 911 attacks



America is not people who fly their flags out in the open.
It is people who ask their questions out in the open.
America is a conversation
that takes form around a whole set of questions
that are not easily asked...
so that it takes courage and the commitment of many lives
to ask them properly and ask them well.
May the courage of our questions make us sane.

-- Michael Bridge


I offer these questions -- formulated with my daughter Jennifer -- as a resource for those of you wishing to organize conversations around the current crisis. 

Use whatever conversational process and venue you are most comfortable with.  Some organized conversations are described at 911 Community Dialogue Initiatives. Something simple you can organize yourself is to gather 2-20 people for a listening circle (aka talking circle or council, ref <>).  You can do it at home, at work, at your place of worship, in a library room, wherever.

Read over the list of questions below.  Add any others that come to you, avoiding leading questions and questions that invite simple, shallow answers (e.g., yes or no).  Pick one or more questions and have people speak from their hearts about it. 

To choose questions, you might place your own favorite dozen questions in a hat, then have a participant pick 1-3 questions out of the hat, which everyone then speaks to.   Or put up a list of a dozen or so and take 5-10 minutes with the group brainstorming some other questions that interest them.   Then have each person choose their favorite half of the list (e.g., their favorite ten out of a list of 20).  Pick the question with the top votes, and have everyone speak to that.

Or do something else.  Feel free to use these questions in any way you wish, including for your own reflection or to ask your friends and family. 

I hope they prove useful for you.



_ _ _ _


What could lead someone to do something like this?
What might we do differently so that fewer people hate Americans?
What response would move us to a world in which this kind of thing wouldn't occur?
How well do revenge and punishment serve us?
How can the media be most helpful in these times?
What constitutes real safety and security?
What is the worst response we could have in this crisis?
How do we deal with personal and communal suffering?
What ways of dealing with our emotions serve us or make things worse?
What can we learn from this?  What are the most important lessons?
What is the place of anger in this situation?
What are you feeling in your body right now?
What could have prevented this?...what else?...what else?...
What consequences would result from each of those actions?
What good could come of all this?
What are you most scared of right now?
What is most important to you right now?
What would be the advantages or disadvantages of waiting until all the evidence was in before deciding who did it and how to respond?
How should we relate to people who applaud this act -- what difference would it make?
How does our society deal with trauma?  What would help our society deal better with trauma?
What do we need our leaders to do?  To what extent are they doing that?
How can we effectively communicate with our leaders?
What would we be feeling if it were proven that this was done by a white US citizen?
What would we be feeling if this were done to another country by an ally of ours?  Has anything like that ever happened?
What would have to change for there to be no terrorism?
To what extent are we responding in automatic ways or in conscious, creative ways? How do we feel about that?
What outcomes of this could make you feel it has been worth it?
To what extent do you trust what the government and/or media has been saying about this?
Who do you know that was directly effected by this?  What is your relationship to those people?  How has their story affected you?
What is the relationship between business as usual and crises like this?
If you were the ruler of the world, how would you handle this problem?
What does this mean for our everyday lives?
What can one person do about this?  What can people do together?
What changes in the system would help us?
How should we talk with children about this?
What responses to this have you heard that upset you or inspired you? --Where do you think those perspectives come from?
What does all this mean about our future?
What does this mean about who we are as human beings?
What does this mean about who we are as a society?
What other questions need to be asked?
What would have to happen for people's responses to these questions to make a real difference in the world?

_ _ _ _ _


Questions suggested by others:

When have I been so angry that I've been willing to risk my safety to strike down my enemy?
What have we learned from prior wars with our mates, with other nations, with co-workers that can help us now?
What can I learn from people who don't see this the way I do?
How do I experience my need for safety?

-- Vicki Robin <>


Can we hear calls for justice any better now that they come from our own mouths?
Can we see the horror of justice denied now that we see its brutal trail on our own streets?
Can we see how the wound strikes deep into generations now that our own children have watched terror unleashed  in America?
Have we been brought together by sharing so closely our suffering with those murdered and maimed indiscriminately in cities around the world too numerous to name?
Have we become more compassionate for the victims of conflicts on every continent now that we have become victimized by a hatred we have mostly ignored?
Can we see now how injustice provokes more injustice?
Can we discover what will water the seeds of justice?
How can justice restore the things injustice tramples on?
Where is that justice that will heal poisonous injustice at its roots?
What does justice in all her beauty and truth require of us now?

-- James O'Dea


  What are the conditions under which we can have a sane and healing conversations that go beyond blame and retribution in the face of the horrendous attack on our nation?
How can we move beyond the belief that we will be perceived as weak and contributing to appeasment of terrorism,  if we don't react with violent and punishing retribution?
Who is already (all-ready) engaged in this kind of innovative and appreciative inquiry?What are they learning?  
What will allow and support our religious, political, and military leadership to join in the design, convening, and hosting of conversations around some of the evocative questions that are being
raised?  Is anyone already doing that?  If so, who? 

-- David Isaacs and Justine Toms

For Listening Project questions see



See also
A Call to Move Beyond Public Opinion to Public Judgment