In early September of 2001, my parents dropped me off in the big city as a first year graduate student at Harvard. I was the farthest from home I’d ever been. I had all of Boston to explore with my two apartment-mates, Sarah and Phynessa. Classes began on Sept. 13, classes where your professor wrote the book and was the leading authority. Coach had proposed on August 25, so our future and wedding plans were swimming in my head. It was an exciting time!
On Sept. 11, I had planned to take a bike ride to Porter Square, visit my bank, grab a few things at the dollar store, and settle in a bit more. Many people had plans for that day. And like mine, many plans failed.
I made it to the common room where bikes were stored, but was halted by my fellow divinity school students huddled around the TV. The first tower was already hit; I watched the second plane hit. I ran back up the two flights of stairs to alert Sarah. Phynessa was at a hotel with her mother. Sarah was already watching.
The morning was filled with phone calls to loved one where words were not enough, with images on the TV that were too raw to be special effects, and with confusion, undirected anger, grief, and fear.
One of the people I called was my father. He was at work and didn’t have access to a TV. I remember telling him, “The Towers are gone.” He replied, “What do you mean they are gone?” “They aren’t there anymore.” That’s all I could say; I didn’t have the words.
I also called my grandmother in Western Maryland; I was concerned about Flight-93 being close to her and our extended family. We talked about the events of the day. I would later ask about her lifetime of tragic days-Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, and 9-11. Her wisdom was this, “9-11 is the worst because we don’t know who did it. With Pearl Harbor, we knew it was the Japanese and we could do something about it.”
Many of us didn’t have the words, to describe the horror, the anger, the heroism, the America we now lived in. And, we didn’t know who to direct our anger toward. It was certainly a sad day to be an American.
Twelve years later, we’ve had time to process, analyze, and find the words. I love the images that are flooding social media today.
How inspiring! But they also got me thinking. This phrase we love and cling to today, this phrase I too used on my personal FB phrase, can miss the mark. “We will never forget.”
What will we not forget?
For some it is the senseless death, the misery, the suffering, the anger, and the hate. It is the moral depravity that could drive men to kill themselves and thousands of innocents. It is the horror of it all. It is a phrase and a justification for continued bloodshed, continued strife, and continued hatred.
In the midst of our suffering world, I offer this:
We must not forget…
- the heroism of the brave in the face of tragedy,
- the value of each life,
- the call to serve our fellow man,
- the power of words well said,
- the power of tragedy to draw people back to God,
- the clarity and peace time affords,
- the ease with which all men can be influenced by those around them for good or evil,
- and the final victory which comes not on a battlefield, but in a Savior’s loving and forgiving arms!
May we never forget!
What are your memories from the day? What do you think we must never forget?