10 years. Really? Because I remember everything like it was yesterday. Every. Disturbing. Detail. Burned into my psyche, like a bad tattoo. I did not have to be anywhere near Ground Zero to experience the reverberations of my country’s greatest tragedy. It changed me. It changed the world. It changed everything.
10 years ago, I was still in college, newly engaged to my now-husband, and living in downtown Minneapolis. I was fighting a nasty flu bug and made the decision to skip class and sleep in that morning. Given my illness, I could have slept all day, but instead I awoke to a phone call from my fiance. He was in between classes and told me to turn on the tv. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but everyone was talking about something horrible in New York City. I turned on the news just in time to witness the South Tower collapse live on tv.
The whole thing was so very disconcerting. Nobody seemed to know for sure what was happening, but we all knew it was bad. Very bad. My tv was on all day every day for days on end. I couldn’t stop watching. I couldn’t turn away. It didn’t seem real.
I remember sitting in the urgent care waiting room later that day, still sick, watching the non-stop live media coverage. My stomach was already churning, but my condition was exacerbated by the horror laid out before me on the screen. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to cry. I wanted my mother.
I remember sitting with my fiance on the grand stair steps leading up to my university library in the middle of the city and gazing up into the empty sky. On any normal day, it would have been dotted with planes streaking across the wide, blue expanse. But suddenly “normal” didn’t exist anymore. To this day, that eerie sky remains one of my most haunting memories.
I remember wanting nothing more than to be home with my family and all the people I loved, just to hold them close. The future seemed so terribly uncertain. Suddenly, I no longer had a desire to travel to Hawaii for my honeymoon. I just wanted to be safe and riding on airplane didn’t seem that it would ever be safe anymore. I wasn’t even sure I would see my wedding day. What was next? When was round two? Would we be annhilated by nuclear warfare by the time June rolled around? I wanted out of the city.
I remember the confusion. All of my life I had been taught to love your enemies and pray for the people who persecute you. And I tried. I really tried. At one point, not long after the attacks, I carefully clipped a small picture of Osama bin Laden from a Time magazine and placed it in my Bible. I looked into his eyes for a long time, searching for some sort of reasoning there. (How could you do this?) I prayed for him. I prayed for the victims. I prayed for their families. I admit it seems a strange gesture now, but at the time, I was just trying to make sense of it all.
I remember the fresh sense of patriotism that welled up in all of us. Americans standing united under God. No one could break our spirit. Nothing could stop us. We were unbreakable. Flags seemed to wave more proudly, our anthem sung more valiantly, and our heads held more highly than before.
And before we knew it… 10 years.
So as I commemorate this day, I remember the victims and their families. I pray for enduring peace and love that transcends all. I pray for unending joy and bright futures. And I pray for freedom.
“He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
and pushes the wicked into the ditch.”
Psalms 147.3-6 (The Message)