Our culture is all about celebrating or memorializing anniversaries. I remember turning ten years old. I wrote about it in my diary. Hitting the “double digits” was a momentous occasion in a young girl’s life, after all. How much wisdom, experience, and knowledge I had gained in those long, ten years!
Now that I’m approaching middle-age, ten years seems such a short time. Most of us remember where we were on September 11th, 2001. We all have a story. I was a graduate student who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning each night writing my thesis and who slept in most mornings. I woke up that morning and got on-line. At the time, I was addicted to a message board and it was there I read a thread that said “Is this the end of WTC?” If I hadn’t made two visits to New York City earlier that year, I may not have known what “WTC” was. But I did know. I had just been there in July. Stunned, I turned on the news. By that time, both towers had already been hit. I called my dad who was also watching the news. I cried. I got out a VHS tape and recorded a full eight hours worth of news coverage. The historian in me knew that the media coverage of that day would be important, that there was a need to record the horror that was unfolding. But I have not watched it since…maybe I will today.
Being away at grad school, I had no family to turn to for comfort. Fortunately, I had friends. I remember the chaos that day, driving to my friend’s apartment. I remember seeing the increased gas prices, the look of shock on the faces of others venturing out, the silence of the empty sky above. Things changed that day. We knew that day would be our generation’s JFK assassination. We didn’t know about Afghanistan, Iraq, and the decade+ of war ahead.
I did not lose a loved-one that day. My friends in New York City were safe and sound. I did lose innocence. We all did.
As a Christian, I’ve been pondering a quote I read this week in Christianity Today by Will Willimon, presiding bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church:
The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.
A division has grown within our country; a division between the left and the right; it has perpetuated an “us vs. them” attitude. I mourn this.
This week I also learned of a worthy project called 9/11 Through Our Eyes. It’s a collection of stories from every-day people…their reflections on the events of that day. Some deride the endless media coverage being showered upon this anniversary. But we all process things differently. Some of us need to be reminded. Some of us need to feel that we aren’t alone in our feelings.