It’s familiar in the most painful way, this need to wring my thoughts out onto the page, that I might see them clearer, that I might remember that day and pay my respects to those who lost their lives. But again, like so many times in the last decade…I’m hesitant because I didn’t lose anyone in the terror that was Sept.11, 2001.
I wasn’t even present, not physically. I was miles away, having just finished my morning devotion and clicked on the TV in time to see some news anchor, whose face and name I’ve long forgotten, musing aloud as to the nature of a developing incident in the heart of New York City. A plane had struck the north tower and there were more questions than answers.
The dread that filled my stomach as the second plane struck wasn’t tied to concerns about the whereabouts of friends and family, but an empathic kick in the gut for thousands of strangers combined with the instantaneous awareness that the world had just changed forever.
Moments later, my heart crumbled along with the massive towers, but I didn’t feel the earth shake beneath me and I didn’t cover my face to keep from choking on the enveloping clouds of dust.
I didn’t run towards the burning towers to help–
or away from the madness towards safety.
These are the reasons I’m always hesitant to write about that hellish day, wondering if it wouldn’t be best to leave such sensitive memories to those who lived it in real-time, or at least to those who can memorialize it with more eloquence.
And yet, I must write precisely because I was there. I may have been safe in my own living room, clutching the remote in one hand and the phone in the other, crying buckets and trying instinctively to locate all my loved ones, but I was there. Even now, as I sit here typing, those memories flood back as vivid as ever, bringing to mind unbidden images of unspeakable horror.
I write to remember a time when our elected officials stood on the Capitol and pledged their allegiance anew, when red and blue weren’t fighting words, but proud colors waving on flags that waved from sea to shining sea. A time when a cross could rise from the painful debris like the beacon of hope it will always be– instead of one more bone of contention between those who love His name and those who don’t want to hear it.
I write because I know that the best of wordsmiths will never be able to wrap enough words around the worst terrorist attack ever carried out on American soil and because my memories as one of those Americans matters, as do yours.
So, please tell me, where were you when the world changed forever?
Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” –President George W. Bush September 11, 2001