Monday, September 11, 2006

On 9.11

Reflecting on that seemingly normal Tuesday morning brings back a flurry of emotion. I remember that I only woke up because someone knocked on our door, perhaps as a way of alerting everyone to the tragic events of the day. I woke up in time to see the second plane crash into the WTC. It was Holley's first day at Rutgers University, and she was far closer to the events. My fear was only sharpened when local news reports announced the reported shutdown of the NJ Turnpike and the rail lines.

Fear was the air we breathed that day. Reports of "missing" planes suggested that the attacks on the WTC were but a first salvo. What would be next? Holley later shared with me that as she waited for her train back to Princeton, a low-flying jet sent people scurrying and screaming for shelter. One day earlier "shelter" was barely a part of our vocabulary.

Fear was the air we breathed that day, and, when we finally exhaled, when we finally knew it was over, we breathed out anger. I shouldn't speak for others; I breathed anger in a wild effort to suppress my fear that the world was being turned upside down around me.

Pride of country was stirred within me as was fear of the other. Bullhorn declarations, press conferences, and speeches comforted me and braced me for my righteous anger to be satisfied. Why, oh why, did I not turn to my faith? I believed in America that day, not the God of Jacob.

"Blessed are the peacemakers." No, on that day, I believed, "God bless America."

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." No, on that day, my enemies were not worthy of God's care.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." No, on that day, I loved my own sense of security, no matter what the cost.

On that day, I thought of myself. The world had stopped turning. Yet Alan Jackson was only half right; the world only seemed to have stopped turning. But now as I reflect I think of how self-centered my reaction was. For many of our sisters and brothers around the world, terror is the order of the day; terror is the daily bread of many. Terror is not an outside force invading our world; terror is our own creation, a virus we inflict upon one another.

I wish I had reacted differently on that otherwise beautiful Tuesday morning. I wish I had opted for love, for peace, for compassion and forgiveness. I wish the world had not appeared so black and white that day; I wish gray would have prevailed until my fear, shock, and grief could subside.

I mourn those who lost their lives that day, but I also mourn how that day exposed my own lack of faith. May God grant us all a stronger faith in those moments when we flee from faith yet need it most.