I have a hard time remembering where I was yesterday at any given time. And two days ago? Forget it. But fourteen years ago today? I’ve got it. I can see it and feel it. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing.
The celebrations this year won’t be as poignant as they were on the first anniversary. They won’t be as big as at at the ten-year mark. But for those of us who were old enough to know, every time September 11 comes around we can’t escape the horrifying images that will come to mind. And whether you remember it or not, life is forever changed because of four planes fueled by religious extremism and hatred.
I try every day to post on our church’s Facebook page a little bit about where I will be that day and what I will be doing. Today, September 11, 2015, I will be doing some work on a sermon. I’m hoping to hit the South End Art Hop this evening. I will spend some time at the church office.
The fact of the matter is, however, that wherever I am and whatever I am doing today, a big part of me will be remembering and reliving…
I will remember sitting around a table in Chalrestown, New Hampshire with clergy colleagues and an assistant professor from Harvard Divinity School. We were pouring over and pondering a text from our own sacred scriptures. I remember the director of the Foundation for Biblical Research coming tentatively into the room, telling us in a halting voice: A plane has just crashed into one of the Towers in New York…
For the moment we sat, stunned. A chaplain at a school said that she had a student whose parent worked at the Twin Towers … What should we do, we wondered. The prof spoke up. For me, she said, the only thing I can think of doing just now is to continue what we are doing. With bibles in hand and commentaries on the table and notebooks filling up with our notes, we continued to read and study together, having prayed for those who were victims of the tragedy.
And then came the second interruption, the news that another plane had struck. “Stunned” is not the word to describe the room. Every one stood, gathered their things and went to our car. I remember the ride home to Lake Placid, not for the road I traveled, but for the words coming at me from the radio. The waves of sorrow and confusion, the pictures were only in my imagination at that point; but my imaginings were no where near as startling as the real thing.
And so it began – the rest of our lives. That day pushed this great nation back against a wall. And we responded exactly as could have been predicted, with more violence. If we thought the inconvenience of airport security was going to top it all off, we were wrong. Today tens of thousands of people run for their lives, longing for safety, security, a future. The world continues to run headlong into our own hatreds.
I know exactly where I was fourteen years. I’m not sure any of us know with any certainty where we are today.