I remember how topaz blue that morning was, the crispness of the air and the smell of fall as I walked that morning. As I returned back home, my neighbor came outside, handed me a cup of coffee and told me that a plane had hit the world trade center. I thought it odd but believed it to be a small plane. We went inside and were visiting when her husband called and said the 2nd tower had been hit. That is when the realization set in that it wasn’t an accident. We called our loved ones and turned on the TV and watched in horror at the death and struggle for life wrought by hatred. Crying and numb, we watched. I don’t think we even ate the rest of that day. We were too numb to even think about anything but being with other people. It didn’t matter whether those other people were friends, family or strangers. We just didn’t want to be alone. We heard about the collapse of the towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon. The waves of nausea, shock and grief washed over us repeatedly like the coming and going of tide.
Then the news came that President Bush was coming to Offutt AFB in Bellevue. A new wave of terror overtook me. It was terrifying to know that Stratcom is a target and that we might be next. I remember walking to the stereo and putting in Anne Murray’s “A Little Good News” and playing it repeatedly, wishing there would be some good news. I rocked back and forth in a catatonic state and the tears found a wellspring I didn’t know I had.
Our church held a prayer vigil and we sleepwalked our way into the sanctuary and held hands with our friends and neighbors, prayed for the lives lost, for understanding, for love to overcome hate and reminded ourselves that vengeance is not ours.
We gave blood, helped fund first responders and rescue dogs to help and tried to find our way to a better love of one another. We pulled together as a humans, as neighbors, as a country and as part of something bigger than hate.
It seems that each generation has its version of The Day the World Changed – WW I, Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, Vietnam, Kent State, OKC, the 1st WTC bombing, the Cole and September 11th, 2001. It seems the fabric gets torn apart so that it can be patched together in a more meaningful fashion.
We lost so much that day: 2977 souls and service and rescue dogs, our sense of security, innocence and freedoms.
Yet we also gained some valuable things: Appreciation for connection, the value of binding together in times of crisis, sorrow and confusion and pride in our country. While I was always glad to be an American, I think I took it for granted before 9/11. After September 11th, my heart swells at the national anthem and the flag waving in the breeze moves me to tears. That day will never be forgotten. For me, it was the day I learned to appreciate my country.
Now, 14 years later our lives are impacted nearly daily by the reactionary nature of the response to the attack. We have readily given up freedom after freedom as 9/11 is invoked as the end-all argument for never-ending regulation, eavesdropping and stripping at the airport. There is no denying the effect of 9/11 on our freedoms but what about upon our hearts? Are we living our lives with joy and fullness, loving our neighbors and striving to foster understanding of one another? My heart answers yes, what about yours?