Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everyone's September 11th

Everyone has a September 11th story, where they were, what the day was like,  with some of the littlest of details etched forever in memory. 

I know I have the silly memory of thanking God for cell phones that day (I'd recently joined the ranks of the cell phone owners), that I could talk to my husband who was trying to get out of DC.  I know I had an obgyn appointment that morning and have a photo of my fifth child, Faith and I was not more than a month pregnant.  "How can you have known you were pregnant? She's just a dot!" the technician asked.  And she was.  The size of a dot, a mustard seed, and so she became known as Faith.

Faith acts as a shield and sword against the sufferings and evils of this world.  My daughter Faith is no different.  She is the first to come to another's aid, the first to get the bandages when someone is hurt, the most sensitive and empathetic of my children.  She's also much stronger and braver than she knows.  Real faith is like that too.  Even then, at the size of a mustard seed, she protected me. 

Though we all howled in pain when the towers fell, I did not get to see the event itself as I was in that little waiting room looking at a screen at her.  When my appointment was over, there was chaos in the doctor's office as all other visits from that point on in the day had been canceled and the receptionist was bringing a TV into the lunch room where the staff had gathered.  There were reports of a plane coming towards the White House here in DC, of fires on the Washington mall, of bombs.  My husband's office is a mere block and a half from the White House, and so he and a friend started the long trek home.  They opted for the Metro, but it was suspended that close to the White House.   So they began walking.  They walked until they got to an open metro station, around Cleveland Park I think.  They left around ten in the morning.  They got home around 4:30. 

After my appointment, I drove to get my son and daughter from their prospective schools, my other two children in tow, all the time glued to the radio.  After realizing I could drive or freak out but not both, I finally opted for classical music.  I figured they'd cut into Bach, Beethoven and Brahms if something new happened.  I know I fixed them lunch but I can't remember what I ate that day.  I just remember, I put Cartoons on for the kids and put the baby down for his nap and went back to my room to watch.  I watched the tower fall again and again and the people fall  and the planes fly into the buildings. 

When you've lived in New York, even if only for a year, you feel like it's your city. You have favorite haunts, little idiosyncratic treats that aren't in the guide book, places that when friends come, you bring them so they can experience your experience.  Zito's for bread, just like Frank Sinatra, Rocco's for eclairs, my favorite to this day, and I loved walking the Brooklyn Bridge.  I loved the wind, I loved the water, I loved the view of the city. I loved the structural beauty of the thing itself, so necessary and yet so elegant as to seem extravagant by today's standards.  Walking the bridge, we'd never go more than half way, because people would want to go to the World Trade Center for a bird's eye view.

We'd go through Wall Street to the top of the World Trade Center and take pictures looking down.  The view from the top doesn't make much sense to our brains because we just aren't used to looking at things from that high, but it's what you do.  Visits to these many places, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Little Italy, the Empire State building, these were the points of the city that anchored your understanding of how New York was different from every other place. I shuddered to know where we'd go was gone.  Like every other person who has ever felt like they owned New York as theirs, I shuddered because I knew how many people were normally in that place and how many lives must have been snuffed out in those horrible moments.  Part of the city was simply gone. 

Every year, I watch the footage or look at the commemorative book in our library and review what happened in my mind. I'm always shocked by the raw feelings that return so bluntly.  We will never forget, but thankfully, we have this day to remember, to allow ourselves to return to those memories.  I know time heals all wounds, but when I look at a shot of the Manhattan skyline, it still looks wrong to me to this day.

September 11th, 2011, the gospel talks of forgiving our neighbor 70x7 and we suddenly understand how very much a grace it is to forgive, when we cultivate ire for our fellow citizens simply based on their political standing.  We struggle with civility and forgiveness for people who merely disagree, how much more will we struggle with those who actively have caused us real harm?

That sunny Tuesday that became something else is a reminder that all of us have the capacity to do acts that require real forgiveness, and that all of us need to pray for peace in our hearts and the world.

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