I was only in second grade on September 11, 2001.
The teachers were frantic, some even turning on the box TVs in our room before turning it off again by request of the principal. There isn’t much else I remember about that day except my constant stream of questions and my mom’s lack of answers. That night, the nation begged for the same answers as we watched the president’s address to the nation.
It was time to clear the rubble.
What I do remember quite vividly were the days that came after. It was the first time in my life I knew evil. It was the first time I heard the words “hijack” and “terrorism” used in daily conversation. Teachers, parents, and grocery store clerks had tears in their eyes when your eyes met their face. But despite the sense of despair and confusion, there was a sense that nothing would ever be the same. We had entered unmarked territory, and I, the quiet seven year old, knew even that.
The days that followed not only taught us this generation’s definition of “hope,” but they taught us what it actually meant to be an American – and I would even argue that it brought the best out of our humanity. The disagreements over race, tax brackets, red or blue, or religion no longer mattered. People prayed even if they weren’t sure who they were praying to. A spirit rose in me as I grew older, knowing from those days how to treat strangers, how to have respect for the ones who fought for our freedom, and what it meant to love people with no agenda.
That’s the America I miss.
She was wounded and bleeding out, but Love stitched her back up. Lines were erased and arms were extended. Our vision was aligned and a country refused to let evil win. They told us that there was a war to fight, but the only necessary battle was naming our revenge as grief and treating our country’s gaping holes of pain and disbelief.
That America has been branded into how I, personally, define church. There is no greater emotion than that of hope and the promise of a new day. I think Jesus knew that. He knew that humans were emotional and prideful- after all, He did make us for Himself – and knew that it would take a community of humans to nurture someone back to life, and life in Him. It’s the very reason the Church was formed. Freedom.
There have been many lives laid down in the name of freedom. America was founded on them. Eternal life was bought with His. But there comes a time to recall those famous moments and ask:
What was it all for?
Are pain and death necessary for freedom? The answer is always yes. But, God! But God, so loving and kind in knowing our true fears, hung on a cross and voluntarily took Death and its finality from us forever. It would be a true injustice to live a life without remembering that – and to live without introducing that same life of freedom to even those we bump into on the street.
The men and women who died on September 11th may not have made the choice to die, but they were martyred for a cause that I hope we actually win one day – a day when we join hands and say, “I am proud to be an American.”
In memory of those that lost their lives so that we might find our own.