I've been caught by surprise twice now at the depth of emotion I still feel remembering 9/11. Eliana was an infant on that fateful day - alive, but oblivious to the horror that swept the nation as we watched the events play out. It wasn't until she was in first grade or so that it occurred to me to tell her about that day. As I told her I couldn't help but weep. She was suprised to see mommy cry. I rarely do.
Tonight at dinner it was Emma's turn to hear the story. She's 6 now, and that must be the magic age of maturity for things like this. Step by step we walked her through the horrifying events. Again I cried.
Why does it still feel so raw 10 years later? Why tears?
I guess it was the biggest world event that had happened in my adult life, or at least the biggest one I witnessed live. (I do vaguely remember when "The Wall" came down in Germany, but I was not old enough to appreciate its significance.) I'll never forget the call from my Dad that we should turn on the TV because a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. His urgency seemed odd to me. Planes crash now and then. It's sad when it happens, but Dad was insistent that we watch. And watch we did, as before our very eyes the second plane hit the second tower. It was in that horrifying moment that the sickening truth sunk to the pit of my stomach:
This was intentional.
Panic ensued. The events unfolded too quickly for us to process them. The Pentagon crash. The collapse of the two towers as the pavement swallowed them whole, a living grave for hundreds and thousands of people. The 4th plane crash in a cornfield, an aborted attempt to bomb the White House. Where will they strike next?
The stunned silence of the next few hours and days was filled with tears, pleas from family members for information on their loved ones, stories of people who should have been in the towers and were not, stories of the brave men and women who had been running up the stairs to their death when everyone else was running down to safety.
Other tragedies have happened in our lifetime, larger ones even. Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, shootings, even. For me, 9/11 was different because it was on our soil, the effects were massive, and it was intentional. No one knew where it would hit next. "Terror" came home. That day a new generation learned that humans are capable of unthinkable evil, and even the invicible United States was brought to its knees.
I'm sure you remember the groundswell of prayer that ensued. I wish that could have been the most lasting after-effect. Naturally it gave way to finger-pointing, blame, and a thirst for revenge. War was inevitable, we just had to locate our enemy (a process that took nearly 10 years!). Meanwhile, America developed a deep distrust of Muslims from any country. For me this was equally tragic. Unfortunately, the line between revenge and justice can be a blurry one.
I'll always be grateful that we had the opportunity to move overseas shortly afterwards and live among people who looked different than we do. By the time the third anniversary of 9/11 came around I could count 80 Muslims among my friends. They gave their children names like Ishmael, Hussein, and yes, even Osama bin Laden. But I loved them and they loved me back. I knew I was safe in their community because they were looking out for me. My one desire was to show them the love of Jesus.
Did you know that Jesus loves Muslims? He did before 9/11, and he still does. We can let our fear or hurt or mistrust build walls between us and the Muslims in our communities, or we can cross the line, extend a hand, and offer the gift of friendship. It's the only way to reverse the cycle of hatred and revenge. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!