11 Sep 911: Before and After
September 11, 2019 Blog Post
9/11. Where were you the morning of September 11, 2001? For many of us, there are memories and images from that day that are forever seared into our psyches. There have been other such national events: the bombing of Pearl Harbor, VE Day 1945, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and many more.
For some people, these events are moments frozen in time. They remember where they were, what they were doing, who they called or who called them. For others, these incidents are entries in a history book. They were either not alive or not old enough for the importance of these events to interrupt their day, much less their lives. And yet, life was forever altered because of what occurred. Teenagers today may not realize that the reason they are required to take off their shoes and belts and carry no more than 3 ounces of toothpaste past the airport screening checkpoint is due to the events of 9/11, but those of us who can compare the “before” with the “after” certainly know the connection.
There are not only national “before” and “after” events that alter the course of our lives, but personal ones, as well. Marriage, births, adoptions, death, illnesses diagnosed, jobs lost or gained, diplomas achieved—the big “life events” are, of course, markers along our path. But sometimes our lives are changed by events that are much smaller and more nuanced—a conversation that opens a door to new possibilities, a kindness received at just the right instant, help that arrives unexpectedly, an insight gained that changes one’s perspective and trajectory. These events can come at any time, from anywhere—complete strangers, a teacher or neighbor, a book or podcast.
There are times, like 9/11, when we know immediately that what has occurred will be a “date that will live in infamy,” as President Roosevelt said the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Quite often, however, it is only as we look back that the significance of an event or encounter becomes clear.
As I reflect today on 9/11, as I remember how my day unfolded eighteen years ago and I think about all that has changed since, I am reminded first, of the fragility of life. Nothing is guaranteed, even for today, which means I ought to take nothing for granted. Today is the best day I’ve got to say, “thank you,” to encourage, help, and care for others, and to express my appreciation and love to those around me.
Second, I am reminded that I need to pay attention. It’s so easy to miss the people, the beauty, the need or opportunity in front of me because I have tunnel vision. I am so focused on the next item on my “to do” list, that I fail to notice that the world is full of shimmering grace. God is real and present and making Godself known in thousands of ways, if I will only take the trouble to look. To notice that pumpkins are appearing in the stores. And the days are getting shorter. That summer is beginning to give way to autumn. And school buses are part of my morning commute again.
Maybe, just maybe, in the noticing and the remembering and the gratitude, my heart will be reawakened. And grace will once more have a chance to speak and be heard.
Yours for the Kingdom,