"Today, we gather to be reassured that God hears
the lamenting and bitter weeping of Mother America
because so many of her children are no more.
Let us now seek that assurance in prayer
for the healing of our grief stricken hearts,
for the souls and sacred memory
of those who have been lost.
Let us also pray for divine wisdom
as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security,
wisdom of the grace of God that as we act,
we not become the evil we deplore.”*
I was in Mrs. Carden's 6th grade classroom when the news that John Kennedy had been shot was announced over the loudspeaker. A collective gasp escaped the mouths of children too young, too naive to understand what had just happened. I tried to hide my tears on the bus ride home. Neighborhood boys made wise cracks and pointed fingers at nerds like me who cried for something they couldn't comprehend. I wept as the boys postured.
I watched in horror as Walter Cronkite reported first Martin Luther King's assassination, then Robert Kennedy's. I was frozen in a deja vu moment on the sunny California afternoon when Ronald Reagan was shot. And then there was Waco, the Oklahoma Federal Building and Columbine. Each incident searing itself into my life by news commentators that couldn't/wouldn't leave it alone. With each story I think the callus around my heart grew a little thicker. Like a drive-by shooting on the northside of my own town ( a place I stay away from) I somehow deflected the grief because it didn't happen to me personally. I was unable to feel what others were experiencing. My tears and and prayers and donation dollars were added to a shared crucible of heartache. I moved on, unable to sustain the grief for more than a few days.
Then came September 11, 2001. Like so many others, I started the day in the usual way. There was no way to expect or anticipate what was going to happen. I lived in a room above the garage and usually made it down to breakfast after my parents were settled into their morning routine. Dad was reading the paper. I knew from the look on my mother's face that something was wrong. In her blue velour robe Mom stared at the Today Show as a befuddled Katie Couric tried to make sense of the unimaginable. A plane had flown into the Twin Towers. Mom and I sat in stunned silence as Evil personified flashed across the TV screen. I hated watching it, but was unable to take my eyes from it.
As I write, memories come rushing back. Time, as it does, has softened the vision, like an out of focus photograph, but after all the speeches and all the flag waving, there has been no long term resolution. In a world of plenty Evil still exists, suicide bombers still blow themselves and others to smithereens, every day heros still fight for freedoms some people can not even imagine, we are still afraid of people who don't look or sound like us, and mothers and fathers still long for a peaceful world in which to raise their children.
A lot has happened in the years between then and now. Like that day back in 1963, each of us has a picture of where we were on 9/11 burned into our hearts and minds. How can we forget?
I remember the planes, the fire, the smoke, the ash.
I remember the heros, the victims.
I remember the sorrow, the grief, the horror, the tears, the rage, the panic, the incredulity of it all.
I remember patriots, blood donors, volunteers, firefighters, rescue dogs.
I remember my son, who heard the blast and smelled the smoke from his vantage point just a couple miles from the Pentagon.
I remember sitting in an empty church not knowing where or how to start my prayers.
And, with a pain in my chest that sits right about where the scar on my heart has been for almost 8 years, I remember my mom in her blue velour robe.
I've rambled. If you want to read a really good post, read Dani's blog. She has a way of summing up everything I want to say but don't know how.
Wishing for you a quiet time for remembering,
*- Rev. Nathan Baxter, Dean of Washington National Cathedral from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/terrorism/july-dec01/remember_9-14.html