Over the past 10 years I've done my best to avoid 'remembering' 9/11. I turned the station on the TV when anything about it came up. I didn't want to relive that day, didn't want to see the images, didn't want to hear the countless stories of loss and suffering. Of course I was affected by it. I don't believe there's a single person in this country who wasn't affected by it - everyone knows someone who knows someone who knew someone ... no one can rightly claim otherwise, because we live in a tiny little world where everyone is connected to some degree. And it wasn't that I wasn't 'remembering' - it's a day I'll never forget, just as millions of Americans will never forget. It was all just too personal, just too overwhelming. Just too incomprehensible. But I'm confident I wasn't alone in my aversion to the endless coverage, the endless stories, the endless heartache, the endless tears.
That's changed now. Somewhat. I still don't like to see the horror of that day splayed all over the television. What I'm beginning to appreciate more, in addition to the stories of heroism and sacrifice, are the accounts of coincidence and salvation, Divine intervention and genuine compassion. I read one such story yesterday, a firsthand narration of the events of that day by author Meg Cabot, who lived in Manhattan, mere blocks from the World Trade Center. Meg's story touched me in a way that made me realize there are probably hundreds if not thousands of stories just like hers, that help make a little sense of an otherwise senseless event.
Our story isn't nearly so touching or heartbreaking, but since it's true that everyone has a story to share, I'll share mine. It was an ordinary Tuesday at our house - except that I was home, in bed and asleep, sick with an upper respiratory infection that would keep me knocked down and away from work for nearly a week. My husband had the day off as well, and we'd put the kids on the bus and gone back to bed.
The phone rang somewhere around 8:00 a.m. our time. It was the kids' godmother, a longtime family friend who works at the corporate office of one of the major banks in downtown Nashville.
"Are you watching the news?" she asked.
"No. What's going on?"
"Turn on the television. It's bad. It's just really bad." And she hung up.
We turned the TV on in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
From that moment on, for the rest of the day and into the evening, we were glued to the coverage. It was horrifying. Unfathomable. We kept asking ourselves the same question over and over: How could something like this happen?
When our kids arrived home from school that afternoon, the first thing our son, then 10 years old, said when they walked through the door was, "The Twin Towers collapsed!"
They sat with us and watched the news. We prayed. We cried. They asked questions we couldn't answer. We prayed and cried some more. Their godmother called back later, sobbing. Some of the 3000 people who died in the towers that day were colleagues, people she talked to on the phone every single day at work. One of them always addressed her as "Hotshot." She said, "I can't believe I'm not going to hear him say, 'Hey, Hotshot' ever again."
What do you say to that?
All we could do then, and all we can do now, is offer a shoulder to cry on, a hug, and a prayer. (Brace yourself, 'cause I'm gonna preach for a second.) Our pastor said in his sermon this morning that 9/11 was a wake-up call to America. That it should be a wake-up call to Christians everywhere: We need to pray for this country, for its leaders (even if we don't agree with the way they're running things), and for its protection.
Lastly, and most especially, pray that nothing like 9/11 will ever happen again.
God bless America.