Looking back…

Today is September 11th. It comes around like clockwork every year. Some years, since 2001, I remember what day it is and take a few minutes extra to remember the lives that were lost in the attacks on America – and to pray for the families of those left behind; and some years it passes me by without a thought. When I sit down and really think about that awful day, I can remember every detail so clearly.

We’d just moved from Iowa to Kentucky. I was unpacking the mountain of boxes scattered in every room in our house. I’m not normally a television person, but that morning I decided to flip on the tube to see if I could find some music channel or something that would suffice as background noise. What I found was channel after channel after channel – all the channels we got at the time – were breaking news coverage. I very nearly flipped the tube off in a fit of disgust, and then I realized they were talking about breaking news in America!

I sat down on the couch and immediately found myself paralyzed with fear and awe. I desperately wanted to turn away, but it was like watching a train wreck unfold before my eyes and I just couldn’t turn it off. I called Sam out of the bedroom, where he was unpacking his office gear, and we both sat transfixed in the living room – tears running down our faces as we watched in horror while people desperately flung themselves out of windows 30 to 50 stories high, not wanting to die in the raging fire of the building – as if the fall itself wasn’t going to kill them.

We didn’t get much else done that day. Nor the next day. Nor the day after that. The Country stayed at home. Disbelief gripped us all. Grief overtook us and we hid our faces from the world. Families clung to each other. Millions reached out to estranged relatives and friends and made long overdue apologies. Parents wrote out clumsy wills and letters to their children. Thousands of people rushed to the grocery stores and the banks and the gas stations. Churches held candlelight prayer vigils for weeks as firemen and rescue workers searched the charred, twisted wreckage of the attack sights. We were all preparing ourselves for the apocalypse that was sure to come. We lived in fear for hours, days, weeks, and some even months and years.

But slowly life began to return to normal. Clean up crews removed rubble from the field in Pennsylvania and the streets of New York, and they began constructing a beautiful park and monument in honor of all those who bravely lost their lives that fateful day. Schools reopened, as did banks, and churches, and restaurants, and grocery stores and other businesses. The stock market slowly started to rebound, and people began to consider the possibility of a future.

For a while, Americans understood what it meant to be a patriot. Old men brought their guns out of the back of the closet and cleaned them up. Young men and women enlisted in the military and put on their battle gear. Churches and other non-profit organizations pulled together and sent aid to hurting areas. And neighbors started looking out for each other. America was united in our cause for justice against those who had hostile intentions toward us. We stood proudly under our flag of freedom and vowed to protect ourselves in the future.

But now, we’re eight years out from the disasters of that early fall day. Memory has been kind to most us who were only marginally impacted by the terrorist attacks and we look back with misty glasses. The edges have been softened, our emotions have been tempered, our anger has been satiated. We are once again caught up in the comings and goings of our every day lives – people rush to work or school, families plan vacations and long weekends, we rally behind our causes and argue politics over dinner. The yellow ribbons and 9/11 bumper stickers have been replaced by every other color of the rainbow, along with “Hope & Change”.

For those of us who only watched the attack from our comfortable living rooms life goes on. But what about those who lived through them? What about those who lost so much – husbands, wives, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers. Some children have grown up their whole lives and have not known one of their parents. Spouses have grieved the loss of their beloved now for eight years. And families still feel the sting of loss during the holiday season.

Lets not forget those people. Lets not allow them to face another year feeling like they’ve been forgotten. Lets put aside our own political prejudices and embrace those who have been left behind. If you know someone who has been directly affected, offer them a helping hand, a kind word, a smile, or maybe even a ‘thinking of you note’. And for the rest of us, take some time today to remember those lost, to pray for their families, and to ask God to protect our nation from another terrorist attack.

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