Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/11

For my parents' generation, they can tell you exactly where they were when Kennedy was assassinated. For my generation, it is the Challenger disaster and 9/11. I hope I never forget.

That day, I remember getting to the church office. One of our parishioners had very suddenly died the night before -- found out at 8:30 that morning. I was in complete shock over her passing. We all were. A few minutes later, I was speaking on the phone with another parishioner about this event, when he said, "Hold it! A plane just hit one of the WTC towers."

The topic quickly shifted, and we thought perhaps it was just off course through an accident. Then he said, "Oh my God. It's hit the other." I told him I'd talk to him later, and immediately went to turn on the TV in the conference room.

My coworker and my boss both came in over the next few minutes. I don't think we did a thing that day except sit in front of the TV and field the occasional phone call. And we passed around the Kleenex -- and the TP when we ran out of tissues.

I remember answering a call from a news reporter around noon, asking if we were going to do any special services. We were still processing everything that had happened -- from our parishioner's sudden death to the national event. I admit that I got very snippy with this reporter and said something like, "I know there's a national crisis, and that it's important. But we have a crisis of our own as well, and we're trying to minister to everyone on every level. {Here's where I got reallllly snippy} And besides, we have a service EVERY day, not just when something happens. So yes, we'll have our regular services and yes we will say special prayers. But as far as a specially planned thing, I'll have to let you know later."

The rest of the day was a blur. I went home, turned on MSNBC, and sat in front of the TV some more. The stories broke my heart. There were so many people on camera, asking the nation to let them know if they knew where such-and-such person was. And I signed on to the messageboard I read often. An Episcopal priest who was a member posted a prayer he'd composed that day. I read the prayer and wept some more. I remember all of us being worried sick over the girls in NYC and Washington.

And here in my small hometown, a local business owner -- born as a Palestinian in Israel -- went to the other business owners on that street, weeping with sorrow over what his fellow Muslims had wrought. Apologizing over and over and asking not to be judged in the same boat as them. And being told over and over by these businessmen and businesswomen that he was not to blame, that he would be just as welcome as ever in their stores, and that they would continue to patronize his business -- all of which has held true.

For the rest of the week, I kept my radio on NPR -- they were running non-stop coverage. I needed to hear it. Over and over and over. I don't know why. On Friday, we opened the church for the National Day of Prayer. I went and knelt there, totally numb. I didn't know what to beseech God for -- all I knew was I had to be there.

Afterwards, I drove to Savannah to visit my friends as planned. And again, listened to NPR all the way down. I couldn't get enough of the news that week. Odd, isn't it?

***

This morning, I heard Alan Jackson's "Where Were You" on the way in, and it brought it all back. And the firehouse close to work had its own memorial. A flag at half-staff, and a fireman's uniform propped up at the flagpole. It was all I could do not to cry all over again.

How has 9/11 changed me? Like many, I could talk about the loss of innocence for us all that day. The realization that we are hated, because of our freedoms and our blessings. The knowledge that it could happen again, at any time and without warning. The price of freedom, purchased with innocent lives who just happened to board a plane, or be at their office that day.

There is all of that. Yet I still hold out great hope for humanity. I still believe that the majority of people are good at heart, and that if we band together, we can overcome the evil present in the world. It has made me more cognizant of the need for true justice -- as Pope Paul said, "If you want peace in the world, work for justice." It has made me more aware of how very much the same we all are -- that no matter what our occupation, our heritage, our faith, our lives and cultures are, we are all humans with the same needs, desires, hopes, fears.

It is my sincere prayer that this day will never be forgotten -- and that we who watched the events of that day and were horror-stricken at the evil that reared its head will do all in our power to overcome that evil.

1 comment:

Talmadge G. said...

It is my sincere prayer that this day will never be forgotten -- and that we who watched the events of that day and were horror-stricken at the evil that reared its head will do all in our power to overcome that evil.

And my prayer is that, someday, we will have leadership that will do that very thing, instead of abusing the memory of 9/11 as a political tool.

-TG