9/11 Reflections

Almost everyone I know has posted something about remembering the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  Of course, that day is on my mind, too.  I was at home in New Orleans, a newlywed of two months.  My mom called me and told me to turn on the news; a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers.  I watched nearly all day as coverage turned to analysis to speculation to more and more terrifying details.  My husband was a few weeks into medical school, and I wasn’t able to get in touch with him until he came home in the evening.  I knew there was nothing either one of us could do but pray and hope, but I remember longing for the reassurance of his presence.

When he finally did come home, we talked and prayed a lot.  We huddled close as we went to sleep, and I recall wondering if our nation would be one at war on our own turf in my lifetime, perhaps sooner than later.  Nothing seemed normal, the things that seemed important just the day before paled in comparison to our nation’s suffering.  All of our family and friends up north were miraculously safe, but we knew the scope of what had happened.  Even from over a thousand miles away, we held our breath with the rest of the country as we all wondered what would happen next.

I’ve written about this verse before, and it came to my mind again as I considered those events 11 years ago:  “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Book of Psalms, 90:12, NIV).  We don’t know what today holds.  We think we do, we make plans, we assume, we carry on, and in reality, that’s what we need to do.  However, also in reality, we don’t know if any of those things will happen the way we expect.  We are part of a bigger picture and plan than our own, and without the right perspective, we can find ourselves staring down some very scary unknowns with nothing to support us.  I’ve had some surprises come my way as an adult, and not just the kind where a bunch of friends or family pop up in a dark room and shout “happy birthday”.  Emotions are very fickle.  When things go wrong, it is natural to feel angry, frustrated, sad, confused, or even helpless.  Our perspective, though, can overcome feelings.  Upon what am I basing my life?  Upon whom do I rest when everything around me is crumbling?  To what or whom do I turn when nothing seems right?  Do I view my life as being entirely “mine” to live as I please, or is it all much bigger than just me?  I don’t know if I have seconds or decades to live, nor do any of us.  I’m not trying to make this a “carpe diem” pep rally, but when we stop and think about events like those on 9/11/01, I can’t help but get a reminder that none of us knows what each day will bring.  Wisdom and perspective come from a certain humility of spirit, one that admits we don’t know all the answers and details of the future.

Something else that comes to mind is the way the nation came together in the face of such a large tragedy.  Nearly every dividing factor ceased to matter as we clung to each other with a new fervor, as a country.  In light of the upcoming election, I would love to see our candidates and citizens remember some of this solidarity of purpose and thought:  we are all Americans.  When I think of the oppression, conflict, poverty, and hopelessness that many face in other countries, my distaste for political divisiveness grows.  America was founded on and supposedly stands for so many good things.  I realize politics are far more complicated than what my simple mind chooses to tackle, but on the other hand, I think of how much this nation could accomplish for its people as a whole if we were more constantly mindful of what it means to be part of this country, together!

I grieve for those who lost loved ones that day.  I pray for those who still feel the pain, fear, and anxiety as if it all happened yesterday.  But, I also pray for all of us to take a good, long look at our lives:  is there a humility covering our plans, is there joy in each day we get, is there gratitude for what we have, is there love and generosity for those around us?  Is there a love for our country, a mature respect for all leaders as they try to do what’s best for our nation?  As someone trying to live my life in response to God’s love for me, I ask of God, “what do you want me to do today?”.  Blessings to all as we carry on!

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5 comments

  1. 9/11 is forever etched in my memory. My young sons witnessed me cry for the first time on that day. Even though I live in Canada on the West Coast, suddenly the world seemed so small and so vulnerable. It was also a day when I realized how much I loved our neighbors in the country next door… God bless both sides of the border!
    ~ Wendy

  2. I thought I would share our 9/11 experience even though being in Sydney, Australia that I wouldn’t have a personal perspective. Of course for us, the dates are round the other way so for us the events of 9/11 happened on the 11th September…spring. My husband and I were married 2 days beforehand and we had the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi as one of our hymns…make me a channel of your peace. We weren’t to know at the time how prophetic in a sense those words were. I had included it with a view of marital bliss but with the events of 9/11 it took on deeper significance. We stayed a few nights at my parents’ beach house and were flying to Auckland for our honeymoon on the 12th September. It was a crazy time with the airlines here as it was as our major national airline Ansett went bust and my then 88 year old grandfather was stranded in Sydney. That was a huge thing for him not to be able to get home. Fortunately, Qantas came to the party and sorted him out before 9/11.
    We were staying at my parents’ place the night before we flew out and my brother mentioned something about a plane flying into the World Trade Centre. Then we watched as we saw a second plane fly into it. At the time, I was thinking: “For one plane to fly into a building was careless but two is stupid.” Something to that effect. My husband works in IT and immediately thought about something more sinister. The irony is that here we were watching this in Australia with actually more insight into what was going on than people had in the building or on the ground to some extent. TV transported us into the World Trade Centre and we could almost inhale the dust as the buildings collapsed.
    It very much seemed like the end of the world at the time. We were grateful that we were flying to New Zealand which was about as far away as you could get from events at the time. We spent our first night in New Zealand with our panoramic view of Auckland Harbour and the city lights glued to ground zero., We went out to dinner and the TV was on there too. Everyone was consumed by it on. Every minute seemed to move so slowly. We just didn’t know how anyone was going to respond and where it was all going to end up and I felt incredibly small and powerless.
    While on our honeymoon, we visited the geothermal pools at Rotorua. They are very intriguing but also rather bleak, desolate. We’d look at the steam rising and the mud gurgling and go back to watch ground zero at night. There was an eerie likeness.
    I also remember that friends of my parents’ were in New York at the time. They are in the medical field and I was really excited because I thought they would be able to help with all the vast casualties. Casualties that didn’t happen.
    We ended up going on a second honeymoon to Western Australia for our first anniversary. Enjoyed the wildflowers.
    As time has gone by, I’ve consciously separated 9/11 from our wedding anniversary. It’s not that I don’t care but our wedding was a beautiful, happy day and the beginning of the rest of my life with my husband. We need to celebrate that too. We need to celebrate the good in the world and not let evil take that away. That said, I like everyone still gets very emotional and deeply saddened about what happened especially for all the people who lost loved ones who never came home. I thought of the Dad who survived because it was his child’s first day at school when my kids started school. This event has become a world event.
    Gee…I’ve written a post within a post here but I think it’s interesting for Americans to hear an Australian perspective on the topic.
    Best wishes & God bless,
    Rowena
    PS Have you read about the Survivor’s Tree? I really liked that.

    1. Thanks for sharing that story! It is always good to hear other perspectives, and I haven’t gotten to hear too many stories from those in other countries. 9/11 happened two months after our wedding, and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans (where we’d lived for ten years), happened three months after we moved from there and also a few months after our son was born. Big events! We never know what will happen in life, and I’m so glad to know my unshakeable, eternal God the way I do!

  3. Awesome reflections of a very memorable tragedy. Yours brought memories of what each of us was doing when this event happened. In Hawaii, it was about 3 am, & a neighbor told us early morning about it, as news swept the airwaves- “Turn on your TV!” An eerie feeling transfixed all of us for we did not know what was happening, why it was happening, & who caused it to happen. Were things going to get worse, will there be other attacks in other major cities, & was this the ‘end of the world’?

    The repentance, the humility, care & appreciation for one another pervaded our land for weeks. People flocked to churches, prayed, & called upon God, but alas, this did not last too long. This was what God wants to do- love Him & love others! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Yes, I remember that period of increased humility and prayer–but as you said, it did not last long. It is sad on a global or personal level when it takes a tragedy to bring people closer to God. Complacency is a frightening thing!

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