I imagine a lot of people are taking time to reflect on where we were September, 11, 2001. 10 years ago. I’m feeling a little out of sorts – and not because of babies or sleep-deprivation, but because there are so many levels of tragedy and sadness recently. Hurricanes. Divorces. Bombings. Jobs lost. Miscarriages. Broken communities. Memories of 9/11.
So, anyways. Since it is a defining moment in our generation and there continues to be a need for dialogue about reconciliation, compassion, and a global perspective…and because I really believe in the power of memory and stories to be a necessary part of healing…here’s my piece.
I had just finished up an eight week summer intensive language program. Hebrew. It was so hard but an amazing time. Andy and I had spent a lot of time together, too…but we weren’t saying that we were officially an item. (What am I – in the 50’s??? We weren’t ready to say that we were a couple.) Honestly, I was still sort of seeing someone, M, back home in Colorado. But, I knew it wouldn’t last…Still, he bought me a plane ticket to go home so I could have a break before fall semester, and also surprise my family. I had flown home on September 9th, and we spent some time together catching up – hiking, eating, processing and dtr-ing, etc. I stayed at his home. On the morning of September 11th, I awoke early to one of his roommates coming in saying, “Turn on the TV.” I was sleeping on the couch in the living room area. The picture of the twin towers up in smoke immediately came on, but in my groggy, disoriented state I couldn’t process the image. I rubbed my eyes. Where was that? What happened? Who did it? All these questions flashed through my mind.
We watched the coverage for two hours. By then the towers had fallen, and I watched people scream and cry, others run, as a black cloud poured into the streets. I couldn’t believe it. I covered my face and turned away, “I need to get home.”
M drove me down to Colorado Springs. The day was absolutely gorgeous, sunny, and bright. Not a single cloud in the sky, and with the windows down, the dry air hinted at fall. It seemed too absurd almost, and far away, surreal – something so terrifying was happening near a place I had just spent my summer, and would spend the next three years. I remember the sky was almost obscenely blue – I felt guilty for drinking it in. For enjoying it. Blue skies here and those black skies in my mind. All summer, friends and I had gone up to NYC every chance we got to soak in the city life. Now, going back, it would be completely different. When I was dropped off at my front door stop, and I rang the door bell, mom answered with tears streaming down her face. And then shock and disbelief washed over her expression. “What are you doing here??? How did you get here? Why are you here? When did you get here?” She thought I’d flown in that morning, and of course, she’d been glued to the television. I explained to her I’d been there a few days before to visit friends in Denver, and that I just wanted to be home.
The next few days were a little frantic. I didn’t really want to go back to Princeton. I knew I should, and that it was important, my dad insisted as well, but I wanted to stay close to my family. Anyways, all flights had been cancelled so there was no way back.
Then, my knight in shining armor rode up. Sort of.
Andy and I had been talking on the phone a lot, and he happened to be in Ohio visiting with a friend from seminary, too. We figured out that if I drove a rental half way (somewhere in Kansas), he would meet me, and we would drive together with two other friends. My dad rented the car in his name, and a couple of days later, I drove off with a few of my belongings across the two states, and met Andy. When I saw him, I think I knew…that this would be something more. I felt incredible relief when I saw his face. We hugged. It was like I was home.
The trip back was uneventful, and a bit of an adventure, but we felt somber as we drove into Princeton with all the news reports about how dark the skies were over NYC, and travel, anthrax, and other terror threats still loomed over our heads.
It was a strange way to begin my seminary career that fall. I felt a little disoriented. The world was one way and all of a sudden, so much changed in just the blink of an eye. Life felt so fragile and desperate. I felt tears well up constantly. But, even as I began my studies, I remember feeling like we just need to figure out how to keep going…just keep placing one foot in front of the other.
Keep our loved ones close.
Keep giving out grace and compassion.
Keep hope in God and humanity.
I was reminded too that there are tragedies all over the world that happen on a daily basis…and though we experienced an attack by terrorists, there were and are people who live in constant terror every day, every week, every minute. Today, I still feel the same way, and long for God to bring relief, comfort and peace to those who face poverty, war, disease, and oppression – something we only had a little taste of that day long ago. Meanwhile, I do pray for comfort for those families who relive the loss of loved ones each year at this time….
As someone wrote on a t-shirt: May God bless…the whole world…
[photo taken from here]