Heavy with my fourth child, I remember the phone call that alerted me to turn on the television.
With my college roommate on the other end of the long distance line, I sat on my bedroom floor staring clueless and confused at the screen. My three little ones (at 5, 4 and 2 years old) were carrying on around my perimeter with business as usual, completely unaffected by the troubles of the world.
The morning news cut to live footage of the first tower with smoke billowing from its side and the newscasters tried their best to spin a story while still devoid of facts.
As I listened to their banter and speculations, a second plane appeared in the New York skyline. Its purposeful trajectory made clear we were witnessing something very different than first considered.
Internal Tug of War
At that point in my pregnancy when days felt like weeks, I remember experiencing a bit of an internal tug-of-war on September 11th. Before my phone rang, I’d been praying intently for labor to commence, relieving me of my physical sufferings, but after watching those skyscrapers fall to the earth it felt somehow wrong to want to give birth on that fateful day.
Looking back, I realize life keeps right on pushing forward despite the news reports, despite personal tragedies, despite world events.
On the day the towers were attacked, babies were born, people fell in love, couples marked anniversaries and children played, but none of that mattered in the moment for those in the chaos of the towers or the loved ones they’d leave behind. Joy was inconceivable for those on the ground covered in ash, inconsequential for the doctors and nurses tending to broken bodies and unimaginable for parents, husbands, wives, children and friends of the victims.
Balance to the Pandemonium
Acts of heroism abounded on that day and those to follow, giving balance in the midst of fear and pandemonium.
Who wasn’t intrigued later by all the stories of great and small acts of charity and compassion? From the United Airlines Flight 93 riders who willing sacrificed their lives to avert greater tragedy to countless others who offered a helping hand to a stranger, people proved that evil was not the victor.
Collectively, we’d come to share in national mourning, but the turning world would mix our grief in with joys and thanksgiving, anger and outrage, forgiveness and hope.
Wanting to Hit Pause
In times of tribulation we might wish for a pause button to stop the planet from spinning, to stop the routines of life from begging our attention, but there is a blessing in the unwavering forward movement of time.
A woman left to weep without consolations or a man left to wallow in his anxieties without distraction might find herself/himself too deep in the chasm of self-pity to ever detect the pinpoints of Light breaking through the cracks of their darkness. Left alone in turmoil and surrounded by evil, we could easily give up hope, but the chores of living beckon us out.
On September 11th and the immediate calendar pages to follow there were appointments to keep, needs to tend to and goals to meet creating thousands of opportunities for Christ’s love and mercy to shine forth through those of us left behind.
Life Went On
Church pews filled as prodigal sons and daughters returned. Whether it was new parents hugging their newborn a little tighter or the store clerk working harder to be patient with a difficult customer, life went on, but it was not unaffected.
I didn’t give birth on that September day, but it wouldn’t have been a bad birthday if I had. Because as much as 9/11 marks a tragic moment in our American history, it also symbolizes our nation’s resilience and strength.
It was the day that reminded us of the value of compassion and selflessness. It was the day that reminded us we are one nation under God.