I cannot believe it's been ten years since the events of 9-11-01. What follows is blog entry I posted elsewhere on this date in 2008. I have added illustrations, but cannot think of anything to add or subract from the text, because how I feel about it hasn't changed. Some people will think I am delusional, over-religious, or some sort of Pollyanna whose feet don't touch the ground. I may be, but I don't think so. I am realistic, but I must still have hope. And faith.
This is my memorial.
So here goes. Thanks for reading.
September 11, 2008
I was gonna post today, and then I wasn't. The anticipation of this date, and all the things I've thought and felt, but never really said, became a bit too much, I guess, and I decided to let it go, to let things percolate awhile longer, maybe 'til next year.
But then I found myself watching a documentary this evening, about one of the most monumental events in my lifetime. And remembering. And I choose to remember, even if I can't do so for long at a time, because I never want to forget all that I felt and thought about and experienced that day, even though some of it was so incredibly painful. I expected homeostasis to kick in, knowing it would need to, at least enough to help us bear the event and it's memory, and therefore, carry on with life. But I don't want to become so used to the idea that it happened, or so numb that the memory becomes a colorless, flat, one-dimensional picture in my mind. I want a living memory, as full of reality and dimension as I can bear. And I pray I will always be able to bear a large measure of that.
And if that means remembering the horror, the fears of "what next?", and the view of my life--and that of those I love--passing before my eyes, all of us so innocently unaware that this moment one day lay ahead, then I still choose to remember. Because in my mind, it was not just a day of horror and sorrow unimaginable, believe it or not, it was also one of the holiest days I have ever experienced.
Which is what I've been thinking about this past week, along with a scene from a TV drama I recently watched that I can't seem to get out of my mind. In a recent episode of "Rescue Me" [on FX], Dennis O'Leary's character is having a little exchange with a new guy in the firehouse about faith and their personal beliefs, when O'Leary's character turns to the other and angrily asks, "Well, where was God on 9-11? Huh? Where was he?" He goes on to say something to the effect of "It looks like he was sleepin' on the job". And even though I knew it was just a TV show, just a character, I know a lot of people struggled with that question then, and that some still do. And it breaks my heart every time.
Because even though it seemed that the Devil was having his way with us, and I myself cried out "Why, God, why?", somehow I knew, by some small miracle, that God was there. That none of this was escaping his attention, that he had not abandoned us. I knew, too, that He would be hoping that we would not forget, and that we would cry out, reach out for Him, so He could show us that He can, and will, be there for us in every moment, no matter how horrible, how grievous, how frightening, or how utterly devastating and dark it might seem.
And I think that's what people did. I know I did; I know I'm not the only one. Whether people did so consciously or subconsciously, I know we did it. And that brings me to the answer to that all-important question, "Where was God?" I know where He was: He was on the planes, He was in the fires, and in the buildings being brought down. And He was on a plane with heroes willing to give their lives to prevent another another crash into another building, which would result in more catastrophic loss. He was in every fireman and rescue worker who responded that day, knowing in their heart-of-hearts that the home they were going to at the end of the day would probably not be the one they left that morning.
He was in all those who gave of whatever they could, whether it was: money, first-aid, blood at the blood-bank, food or other services, comfort, prayers. And in the tears of all of us willing to cry, willing to fall to our knees to share the grief of people we didn't even know, may never meet, and those they had lost. We shared the horror and the pain, we met what needs we could, we did what we could, even if it was just to keep vigil by the television and offer our prayers on their behalf, and on behalf of a world which seemed to be coming apart.
After my initial shock wore off a bit, I began to realize that this event was bigger than it appeared--and it appeared to be a mammoth. I already knew we are on the verge of a new paradigm on this planet. So it came to me that this must be catalyst of some sort, although my mind was still trying to grasp how it was supposed to work. That question began to answer itself for me as I spent the day, and the rest of the week--and weeks to come--watching people's broken hearts open up, looking for ways to show love and comfort, find hope, and share strength with each other, in both practical and other ways. As I watched other countries and their leaders send us messages of condolence and unity, standing with us in our horror and grief, it answered itself some more.
And at the end of the day, I realized that I was crying for more than just pain and horror and fear; I realized that it was also the scenes of caring, heroism and help that people were displaying that also brought tears. And it brought pride. Not just in the American people, but in the human race. And I realized most of the responses I had seen that day were not so much of revenge, but of sorrow and hearts going out and people concerned, not just with themselves, but even more so with their fellow human beings.
I knew the war we found ourselves in that fateful day was not with terrorists, other countries, another religion, etc., but with something greater and more meaningful, and that in all those expressions of the best in us, we had already won. That in our continuing to stand in the face of fear, and stand together, was our victory. And that before the day was out, we had it. For at least a little while, we were truly one. And it was beautiful. And nothing else mattered. Every unimportant, undignified thing, as well as the old paradigm we have so long slaved beneath--and all it's little rules--fell away. And so we were also free.
Whoever did this , we had robbed them of their victory.
And I prayed that we would all understand this, that this is all that was really necessary; and that we would remember this new paradigm we had lived, for at least a little while, and that it worked, and that perhaps--just perhaps--we could build lives, a country, and a whole world, on it. And I prayed that I would not forget. Because even though I--and we--had experienced more than a glimpse of hell, somewhere in that fire, I had also seen the face of God.
And it was glorious.