Four ways 9/11 changed America's attitude toward religion
Construction workers move steel beam pulled from ground zero rubble into its permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
September 3rd, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Four ways 9/11 changed America's attitude toward religion

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - David O'Brien couldn't help himself. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, he became obsessed.

O'Brien read the stories of 9/11 victims over and over, stunned by what he was discovering.

He read about the firefighters who marched up the smoke-choked stairwells of the World Trade Center, though many knew they could die; the beloved priest killed while giving last rites as the twin towers collapsed; the passengers on hijacked planes who called their families one last time to say, "I love you."

"I was obsessed with these stories," says O'Brien, a Catholic historian at the University of Dayton in Ohio. "There were so many stories of self-sacrifice, not just by the first responders, but by people fleeing the building. There was this revelation of goodness."

O'Brien saw an Easter message in 9/11 - good rising out of the ashes of evil. Yet there were other religious messages sent that day, and afterward, that are more troubling, religious leaders and scholars say.

September 11 didn't just change America, they say. It changed the nation's attitude toward religion. Here are four ways:

1: A chosen nation becomes a humbled one.

One man died because he arrived early to work. A woman died because she decided to take a later flight. The arbitrary nature of some of the deaths on 9/11 still sticks with many Americans today.

Yet this is what life is like for billions of people on the planet today, some religious leaders say. A random event - a car bomb, a stray bullet - can end their lives at any minute.

Most Americans had not lived with this vulnerability until 9/11, says Mathew Schmalz, a religion professor at the College of the Holy Cross  in Massachusetts, who once lived in Karachi, Pakistan.

"We had this sense of specialness and invulnerability that 9/11 shattered," he says. "Given that a large section of the world's population deals with random violence every day, one of the outcomes of 9/11 should be a greater feeling of solidarity with people who live in cities like Karachi in which violence is a part of everyday life."

Recognizing that vulnerability, though, is difficult for some Americans because of how they see their country, Schmalz and others say.

They say Americans have long had a triumphalist view of their place in history. Certain beliefs have been engrained: Tomorrow will always be better; we're number one. The term "American" even reflects a certain arrogance. It casually discounts millions of people living in Central and Latin America.

The 9/11 attacks, though, forced many Americans to confront their limitations, says Rev. Thomas Long, a nationally known pastor who has been active in post 9/11 interfaith efforts.

"We're losing the power of the American empire and becoming more a nation among nations," says Long, a religion professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "The world is a much more dangerous and fragile place economically."

How Americans cope with their loss of power is ultimately a theological question, Long says. It's the same question the ancient Hebrews confronted in the Old and New Testaments when they faced national calamities.

The chosen people had to learn how to be humble people, Long says. Americans face the same test today.

"The challenge for every faith tradition is going to be helping people grieve the loss of an image of America that they once had," he says, "and acquire a modern understanding of ourselves on the world's stage."

2: The re-emergence of "Christo-Americanism."

Before 9/11, if you asked the average American about Ramadan or sharia law, they probably would have given you a blank look.

Not anymore. The 9/11 attacks prompted more Americans to learn about Islam. Books on the subject became best-sellers. Colleges started offering more courses on Islam. Every cable news show suddenly had their stable of "Muslim experts."

More Americans know about Islam than ever before, but that hasn't stopped the post-9/11 Muslim backlash. The outrage over plans to build an Islamic prayer and community center near ground zero; the pastor who threatened to burn the Quran; conservative Christian leaders who called Islam evil - all occurred as knowledge of Islam spread throughout America, scholars says.

"One of the sobering lessons of the decade since 9/11 is that religious prejudice is not always rooted in raw ignorance," says Thomas Kidd, author of "American Christians and Islam."

"Some of America's most vociferous anti-Muslim critics know quite a lot about Muslim beliefs, but they often use their knowledge to construe Islam in the worst possible light."

Many of these public attacks against Islam were encouraged by conservative Christian leaders such as Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, who called Islam "wicked," and Pat Robertson, the Christian broadcaster who declared that "Islam is not a religion," says Charles Kammer, a religion professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

Kammer says Graham and Robertson helped fuel the rise of "Christo-Americanism," a distorted form of Christianity that blends nationalism, conservative paranoia and Christian rhetoric.

"A segment of the religious community in the United States has been at the forefront of an anti-Islamic crusade that has helped to generate a climate of hatred and distrust toward all Muslims," says Kammer.

Other strains of Christo-Americanism have swept through America before.

After 9/11, some political leaders said terrorists hated the U.S. because of "our freedoms." But America's record on granting those freedoms to its citizens is mixed, says Lynn Neal, co-editor of the book, "Religious Intolerance in America."

In the 19th century, the U.S government passed numerous laws preventing Native American tribes from practicing their religion. Mormons were persecuted. Roman Catholics were once described as disloyal, sexual deviants, Neal says.

"Religious intolerance is not a new feature of the American landscape. Despite being the most religiously diverse nation on earth, despite having a first amendment that protects religious rights...we as a nation and as citizens have often failed to live up to those ideas."

3: Interfaith becomes cool.

Interfaith dialogue - it's not the type of term that makes the heart beat faster.

Before 9/11, interfaith efforts were dismissed as feel-good affairs that rarely got media coverage. The 9/11 attacks changed that.

Interfaith events spread across the country. Mosques and temples held joint worship services. Every college campus seemed to have an interfaith dialogue. The Obama White House launched a college interfaith program.

Becoming an interfaith leader is now hip, some say.

"A generation of students is saying that they want to be interfaith leaders, just like previous generations said they wanted to be human rights activists or environmentalists," says Eboo Patel, who founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 2002.

Patel says at least 250 colleges have signed up for the White House interfaith program, which he helped design. The program encourages students of different faiths to work together on service projects.

"These young leaders will make interfaith cooperation a social norm in America, similar to multiculturalism and volunteerism," Patel says.

These new leaders include people like Sarrah Shahawy, a Muslim-American medical student at Harvard University and the daughter of Egyptian immigrants.

After 9/11, Shahawy says she felt the responsibility to educate people about Islam. She became an interfaith leader at the University of Southern California,  where she noticed a steady increase in student participation in the years after the attacks.

Shahawy says her generation is drawn to interfaith efforts because 9/11 showed the destructive potential of any exclusive claims to religious truth. The 9/11 hijackers carried out their attacks in the name of Islam, but Muslim religious leaders and scholars said that the terrorists' actions did not reflect Islamic teachings.

"For one religious group to claim a monopoly on truth should be obsolete," she says. The interfaith movement doesn't teach people that all religions are the same, she says.

Shahawy calls herself a proud Muslim. "But for me, there's beauty and truth to be found in many different religions."

4: Atheists come out of the closet.

There's one group, however, that sees little beauty in any religion.

Before 9/11, many atheists kept a low profile. Something changed, though, after 9/11. They got loud.

Atheist leaders such as Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," and Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith," wrote best-selling books. Atheist groups launched national media campaigns with bold billboard messages such as "Christmas is a myth."

The pugnacious journalist Christopher Hitchens became the public face of a more combative form of atheism as he went on talk shows and lectures to defend not believing in God.

Criticism of all religion, not just fanatical cults, was no longer taboo after 9/11, says Daniel Dennett, a philosophy professor with Tufts University in Massachusetts.

"Atheist-bashing is now, like gay-bashing, no longer an activity that can be indulged in with impunity by politicians or commentators," Dennett says.

Atheists were driven to become more vocal because of the 9/11 attacks and America's reaction, says David Silverman, president of American Atheists. He says many atheists were disgusted when President George W. Bush and leaders in the religious right reacted to the attack by invoking "God is on our side" rhetoric while launching a "war on terror."

They adopted one form of religious extremism while condemning another, he says.

"It really showed atheists why religion should not be in power. Religion is dangerous, even our own religion," Silverman says.

Atheists are still the most disparaged group in America, but there's less stigma attached to being one, he says.

"The more noise that we make, the easier it us to accept us," Silverman says. "Most people know atheists now. They knew them before, but didn't know they were atheists."

Many Americans knew the people who perished on 9/11 as well, but they didn't know they were heroes until later, says David O'Brien, the Catholic historian who compulsively read the 9/11 obituaries.

O'Brien was so moved by the stories he read that he decided to write an essay for America magazine, a national Catholic weekly, entitled, "9/11 Then and Now."

He wrote: On 9/11, "Our people, my people, were tested and, for a shining moment ... they were found worthy."

He said many 9/11 victims didn't panic as their end drew near. They "thought not of themselves, but others ... when the chips were down." They saw themselves not as individuals, but as members of a "single human family."

So should we, he says, as we face new challenges 10 years later. The 9/11 victims aren't just heroes; they're our guides for the future, he says.

"The story is not over, not by a long shot," O'Brien wrote. "Look at all the love that day. Love can still write another chapter and keep hope alive for a better future. The meaning of 9/11 lies ahead, and it's in our hands, and maybe in our hearts.'

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 9/11 • Atheism • Christianity • Faith • Interfaith issues

soundoff (2,180 Responses)
  1. Mike Reidy

    Islam is not a religion – it is a system. Islam has religious, legal, political, economic and military components. The religious component is a cover for all the other components. Islamic rule occurs when there are enough Muslims in the host country to fight for their so-called “Religious rights.” When politically correct and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their “Religious rights,” Muslims become more assertive and increasingly more aggressive.

    September 23, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  2. Mike Reidy

    Throughout history, in every culture where Islam has ascended, they have conquered by making extinct their host culture. Islam does not assimilate into societies, it dominates them! There is no "getting along with Islam," there is only acquiescence to its never-ending demands.

    September 23, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  3. Mike Reidy

    "..There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
    Theodore Roosevelt 1907

    September 23, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  4. David

    Secularists are constantly denigrating people of faith as ignorant or evil. Yet faith in God often provides as many answers to life's questions as science does. When asked how the universe came to be, a theist will say it was God's will. A secularist will, if honest, speak of the big bang. The big bang theory is predicated on the universe once being very small, very hot and very dense. It then expanded (the big bang) rapidly and then cooled. There is no prevailing idea why the big bang happened or what could have cause such an event. Nor can science completely explain why we dream. For those who blame organized religion for much of the violence in the world, study ancient Rome or Babylonia. The world was a very violent place prior to the advent of monotheism. Lastly, for those proponents of evolution, study the Irreducible complexity argument.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  5. A knower

    God works in mysterious ways is an understatement at the least. We are so caught up in today's fads and beliefs, that disease and sufering is needed to break us down. to humble us. to knock us off our high-horse pursay.. give your life to god and you realize that suffering on earth isnt a bad thing. a smaler-than microscopic spec in eternity is this life. if i had to get cancer, aids, and be paralyzed before i finally swallowed my pride and gave my life over to my Creator, so be it. AMEN

    September 22, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  6. kamana

    “Religion” is just another form of gangsterism, an organized criminal activity. Religion is about men using violence or the threat of violence against the women and their children to dominate, control and enslave the women and children. There has never been a single human male who ever did anything for the human female that the females ever needed or could not do for themselves.

    September 21, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • Bret Walker

      Religion is a set of man-made rules on how we can get to God. Christianity is what God did freely to bring us to him. There's a difference.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  7. Tony

    Atheists have started speaking up- myself anyway, because I've had enough of this god vs god nonsense. Fanatics are in every religion- even the screaming jesus people shooting doctors and spewing hate. No difference from the extremists in islam. Your fairy tale is no different from the other fairy tale..it's just that control of the poluation and the big, big $$$$$$ doesnt go into your god's bank account. I'm a decent person for the sake of being decent. I don't need santa offering me treats if I'm a good boy.. Jesus H!

    September 21, 2011 at 4:57 am |
  8. Cody

    Has anyone thought of god as a "childrens tale"?As children we are told about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy the Easter Bunny and all that good sense.But as we get older we realise"wait...a chubby old jolly man makes toys for all the boys and girls in the world and delivers them all to them at night....That cant be true because first off you cant possibly do that in one night an reindeer cant fly."than it goes like this.Either you catch your parent taking your tooth and putting money under you or you realise"wait....a magical fairy takes my tooth and gives me money....no way"and of course our old pal the easter bunny.If you really think about it you see what im getting at.We are raised to believe in an all powerfull creator that loves us but never reveals himself and gives us everything we see around us...THINK just THINK how is that possible...Why do you think flying reindeer are impossible but and invisible ruler is all too real?Just use your head and reason with yourself.If you are intelligent and stop blindly running in the dark with bull-headed faith you will realise...there is no god.... Thank you for reading 😀 Cheers

    September 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Bingo, thiesm is an exersise in foolishness and absolute stupidity.

      September 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • MG

      Telling people that they are childish for believing in God is every bit as bad as Christians telling you that you are going to Hell for not believing. If you want people to respect you for your beliefs, you have to respect theirs. Attacking someone on such a personal level as their fundamental beliefs does nothing but spark anger and causes even more tension. I firmly believe that both Atheists and Theists, need to respect what other people believe. Both groups have members that are content to let others believe as they will, and both groups have members who feel that they need to force others to their point of view. Belittling someone is never helpful and is completely counterproductive.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Bret Walker

      And that is why I think Christian parents ought not to tell their kids about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Aside from the moral implications it sets up later about benign vs. malicious lies (a lie is a lie), it also calls into question everything you ever told your child about God, true or false. God can stand on his own without the help of these mythical constructs.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  9. juan carr

    Can someone please help me to understand how this country the United States of America, got so off of thier own track.We know one thing for sure and History proves this is that this one thing that everybody and thier brother wanted, called freedom or the land of oppurtunity. How did we get so self rightous to leave the one thing out of the nation that got us here in the first place, the truth and the foundation of it, the death and resurrection of Jesus, with out that I guess we wouldnt have the book we chose words out of that led this country in the 1st place, muslims apologise? We are the ones responsible or maybe thats what we forgot or left out as leaders, accountablity. Our nations leaders at least if they believe in what this country was fouded on should all come the the table and agree to this truth of assuming accountability, and repent, and start over along the mercy and forgiveness of Our Father of this Country. Thats if the truth is in them and they believe in this Country and how it was established. thats when you will find a resolve not to mention rid out the liars. We the people should speak up as humbly as possible God says He gives grace to the humble. and He also says He will humble those who exalt themselves. So at least weve established where the power is, Lets bring to the table how we in the great comprimse managed to comprimise something that was not ours to comprimise and that was the truth, Gods Word. No matter what we made promises one like freedom and justice for all, this is a God thing A free will thing,thats why He is allowing and tolerating ALL this foolishness to begin with, after 9-11 you think we would have got the point about who is and is not incontrol, We must except full responsibility in order to save faith, not face. freedom of religion is and must be stood on by the grace of God. So this statement under the exact meaning holds true to honoring the free will of man, wether or not to recieve the faith of which this country was founded on. But our leaders would have to be in agreement with the foundation they are standing on to begin with, before they can proceed to guide and to uphold its laws, that not only they can do it justly but for everyone to act accordingly and follow suit. But because its been everyman out for himself for so long we lost sight of the truth the answer that has ALWAYS been there as He PROMISED,never to leave us nor forsake us, WE did this to eachother we are all to blame, were worried about terrorist and gays hating us or that they will destroy our families, We do this perfectly fine with No help from them as we just look at the divorce rate, we men and women are great at turning on and hating, our spouses and the mean time because of our wonderful example our kids follow suit, and we do what we do best blame blame and keep blaming the whole time we miss out on the answer that has been there since day one, In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. Thats our Father people who said that He knows the end from the beginning, and who did we choose to put our trust in? somebody that dosent even know who they are, as we so often find ourself lost and or confused and stressed out from trying with all our strength, to control our life as our parents did, only to fail and fall into depression and end up being under the control of some drug for peace as our last hope as the american family is dwindling away. Jesus says to follow Him that He will show us the way the truth and the life, and He is the answer, I know that line sounds corny but when you take a serious look at your personal life as you know it and you know you have a accountability problem, Jesus died so you could put that all on Him, He said that he is a perfect help in a time of need, So exersize your free will today in America and choose to put all your faith in Jesus, He died over 2000 years ago,so Hes already chosen to forgive you, all you have to do is apoligize to Him, and ask Him to come into your heart, and show you all his promises along the way the truth and the life.

    September 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  10. C.Cantu

    Islam is the source of all evil and Muslim clerics are their executioners. Most Muslim clerics especially in the Middle East are the main instigators of all violence, terrorism, hatred, vengeance and discrimination around the world. Mosques and Islamic schools (maddrassahs) are incubators of terrorists and fanatics. Muslim clerics brainwash people's minds transforming an ordinary person into an irrational beast capable of committing the worst atrocities and without experiencing any remorse. Please keep America free of this evil religion.

    September 19, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Paul B

      Most clerics ? I don't think so. Also, I would have hated to be Germanic during Charmaine's campaign. Christianity has been every bit as bloody in the past if not recently ! Just when you least expect it, along comes the Spanish Inquisition.

      September 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Sally

      And guess what? with the level of your ignorance your running days are not over!

      September 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Tom

      @Paul B ... the few Muslim Clerics that stand up against the radical Isllamists have fatwahs issued against their lives. One example is the French Imam who earlier this year supported the burka ban. He had to be removed from his own Mosque for his safety! So the word "most" is not wrong, if not in numbers then at least in voices.

      September 21, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  11. Iqbal Khan

    Check this link please....


    September 19, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  12. Gloria

    We escaped from our country to run away from Muslims. 9-11 is only a glimps into their horrifying world. We escaped and came to America but they wrath has followed us here. And Americans are busy woorying about being politicvally correct. Not all cultures are equal!

    September 18, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Paul B

      My ancestors were escaping the catholics.

      September 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • mickey1313

      paul, me too.

      September 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Christine

      My family escaped to America from the SS.

      September 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  13. Maire

    Yeah, atheists came out the closet after 9/11 because they realized they could ride the wave of anti-Muslim bigotry and nobody would care. After 9/11 atheists felt justified in voicing their rage and hatred of religion, like a guy who feels justified in voicing their hatred for an entire ethnic group because a member of that group killed his child. Really these people must be grateful everyday for 9/11, for without it, what would happen to their sacred "proof" that religion is evil (not to mention the loss of book sales)

    September 18, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Brad

      You clearly have no understanding of what an atheist "believes". To be an atheist is to simply believe there is no god. Period. I believed this before 9/11, and I certainly believe it after 9/11. But it doesn't make that belief fact.

      Atheists and agnostics were speaking out against the religions of man long before 9/11 (Robert Ingersoll). And will continue to speak out against it long after 9/11. Men have utilized many different ideologies for power and control throughout the world's history, and the religions of men are not exempt from this.

      Regardless of the killing and destruction over an ideology, the fact is that there is more than enough evidence to prove the main religions of man to be false religions. This includes Christianity, Judaism, & Islam. But I would never argue over the existence of a god, as that cannot be proven one way or the other. I simply choose to believe that a god does not exist. But I know the gods of mans religions do not exist.

      September 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Tom

      @Brad ... as if the ideology of Atheism has never been used to control people: Stalin, Mao, etc. Heck, Atheists in the US are even trying to control whether a Menorah or Creche can be put up! Ya bunch of buzzkills!

      September 21, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  14. Garcia

    We became less tolerant towards Muslims which contradicts everything what Jesus taught

    September 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tom

      Nope. Jesus never taught tolerance of evil. And before I get a bunch of folks piling on about the evils of Christianity, remember that the evil done in the name of Christ was not something he taught. Muhammad was a warrior, and his teachings unfortunately reflect that in places.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • American Muslim

      Garcia, did Jesus (PBUH) teach that he should be worhipped, or that a person should worship only God? Did Jesus(PBUH) teach that you should pick and choose what you practise out of the Holy Bible? Did Jesus (PBUH) teach that parts of the Holy Bible should eventually be changed and modernized? Did Jesus (PBUH) say it was okay to put harmfull substances that are proven by fact to be poision (alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs) in your body? Did Jesus(PBUH) teach that women should disobey their husbands? Did Jesus(PBUH) teach that two men can get married to each other? Did he teach that parents and old people should be disrespected? Did he teach that the poor should not be helped? Did he teach that man's word is better than the word of God?

      September 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  15. paul

    The more I find out about and read about islam, the more I'm convinced is of the Devil. I wonder how something so Evil can spread so far and wide and demand such fanatical allegiance. Muslims are truly lost souls.

    September 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Cagary

      Yes im sure the Devil would Preach to pray 5 times a day, and fast for an entire month

      September 18, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Tom

      @Cagary ... yes, he would, because that tricks people into believing that they are working their way into God's favor.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • American Muslim

      Yes, Paul please think clearly. Why would the devil tell you constantly and consistently to worship only one God, to shun all other as God, to shun the devil himself, to be healthy in body, mind and spirit by doing good, saying good etc. Giving to charity, being fair, being just, not being wasteful. Paul what you are saying just does not make sense. The devil would not tell you to worship God, the devil would not say "stay away from me, and go to God"!!! Please wake up!!! Your soul depends on it!!

      September 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  16. BigJohn4USA

    Before 9-11 the only thing I knew about Islam was the hypocritical Muhammed Ali couldn't fight because his was a religion of peace. Then I learned to really hate, loath, despise islam.

    September 18, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  17. Hashim

    For more insight on this read novel - king of Bat'ha

    September 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  18. SecondSight1

    Two of the three posts (most recent at the moment for me) which are all I see with my first look at responses on this article by Blake... these are baffling ,,, dare I read more comments?

    These two demonstrate the most virulent, uninformed, ignorant extremism I have seen in anything after the 9/11 memorial. Can they possibly believe they are persuasive apologists for the crimes against over 3,000 innocent people?

    These two, "Mike" Young and wavettore, are such misguided and unhappy people. I feel very sorry for them. Wake up and smell the coffee (of reality), gentlemen (or female if wave is a woman, which I doubt with Islamic beliefs).

    You need something to help you get back from the aridity of Mars. Your little gray cells are fast drying up.

    September 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  19. Margareta

    The U.S. is a Christian nation – however everyone could worship whatever religion they want.

    September 15, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  20. wavettore

    Since 9/11 it's the War on Terror.
    One "false flag" attack so called by error.
    Blair, Bush, and Israel had a Pact in store.
    Their next surprise is knocking at your door.
    A hidden vile Idea from those who want "more"
    will use you and your Belief for the next World War
    When "chosen people" gain while Humankind loses
    Greed wins not by the swords but by the words of Moses


    A new type of Revolution wins with the ultimate weapon
    Your Mind


    September 14, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Big Bob

      What perfect prose, considering what a lesson in self-loathing this POS article is...

      September 19, 2011 at 11:50 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.