so today . . . is the ninth anniversary of a terrible tragedy that has forever changed our country.
usually i try to write about something that will make you laugh or smile or at least take your mind off more serious things. but today doesn't really seem like the appropriate time to do that.
i spent an hour today at my church. we provide a hot meal and showers to the people in our community who don't have regular access to either of those things. it is a new endeavor, and for now, we only have the resources to do it once a month. today it was my turn to share a few words with them. i did not talk about the tragedy that happened nine years ago. i would be kind of surprised if most of them even knew that today was the anniversary of that event. i suspect that when your life is not ruled by a job or electronics or tv shows, or when you don't have a wall on which to hang a calendar, you might tend to lose track of what the exact date is. instead, i talked about timeless truths--even though most of us are ruled by time.
i saw several posts online today in honor and support of those who lost loved ones on this day nine years ago. and it is right and good that we would continue to honor and support them. but today i was reminded of another group of people whose lives have been forever changed by the events of september 11, 2001...
my friend m'chel was at our church today too. she had come to sing a couple of songs before the dinner was served. today is m'chel's birthday. it has been her birthday for more than 30 years--long before those two towers collapsed. and yet, because of that event, her birthday will never be the same. when people find out her birth date, they often don't quite know how to respond. birthdays are supposed to be "happy." that's why we sing "happy birthday to yooouuuuu!" but for americans, it has become a day of sadness, and remembering great loss. will m'chel ever again be able to celebrate her special day with abandon? maybe, but maybe not. and what about all those couples who chose september 11th as the day they would promise to love and cherish each other for the rest of their lives? how do they spend the day celebrating their love with the backdrop of such terribleness all around them?
i would guess that we will see very few september 11th anniversaries in the coming years, but babies are another story. my "nephew" (the quotes are because i am not really sure of our familial relationship--he is the son of my cousin--but it doesn't really matter, because i think of him as my nephew,) and his wife just welcomed their first baby into their family. she was born on september 9th. they had no control over the day she arrived, but i have to admit that i was really glad she chose to join us on that day, rather than coming a couple of days later. her arrival was a happy, happy occasion. if she had been born on september 11, all of us who know her family would still have been happy. but in coming years, while she was blowing out her birthday candles to celebrate the beginning of her life, the rest of the country would probably still be focused on the tragic ending that took so many other lives.
how long will the sadness last? i don't know. when i was 5 or 6, my grandfather died. he had cancer, and we had lived with my grandparents for a while to help take care of him. he was a daily part of my life. but "in those days" if you had cancer, you eventually died. and he did. on thanksgiving day. and every year, for a long time after that, i would remember, "this is the day grandpa died." i still think about it sometimes, but i confess that there have been several thanksgiving days when we have eaten turkey and watched football and made shopping lists, and i haven't thought about him or his death. at all. does that mean i didn't love him? no. does it mean he wasn't an important part of my young life? no. it just means that time does heal the pain--but sometimes it takes a LOT of time.
as a nation, and as people, those of us who lived through it will never forget watching those airplanes crash into those towers. we will never forget the shock and horror we felt as we sat glued to our tvs. we will never forget the uncertainty of knowing who was actually in those buildings at that particular moment. we will never forget the bravery and endurance of the men and women who worked until they dropped, searching for possible survivors. we will never forget the search dogs who became so depressed, that workers had to let the dogs find "pretend survivors," so they could continue to do their jobs.
and we will never forget the families whose moms and dads, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews never came home from work that day.
but babies will continue to be born--some of them on september 11th. and while we will never forget the pain and loss of the past, i hope that we will also be able to embrace the hope of the future. because we haven't seen the end of the story just yet...