“It was a beautiful day.”
Whenever I hear U2’s song, I think of that morning. The song was popular at the time, but it has since become something of an anthem for the events of September 11, 2001.
It was a day much like today, as we drove to our jobs and went about our business. The sky was clear, intense blue, the air fresh. If there was something in the air, it felt like possibility.
Everyone who remembers at all can probably return in memory to how they heard the news.
My husband called from his office to let me know he had heard from our son in Manhattan, and he was safe. This was the first I had heard that he might not be safe!
“A plane hit the World Trade Center,” he said. My mind went to visions of King Kong sitting at the top of the Empire State Building catching bomber planes and hurling them to the ground. I knew a plane or two had collided with New York skyscrapers in the past. All would be well.
But then I realized my husband was saying there had been a second plane.
As if an electric current had passed through my nervous system, I woke up. This was not an accident.
We have collective memories and personal memories of the aftermath. The possible number of casualties as high as 50,000; signs plastered all over the city, families searching for lost members as we search for lost pets; images of first responders rushing to their own deaths in the name of love and mercy; images of people in distant countries dancing in the streets . . .
My second most vivid personal memory is the conversation I had with Doug, our son, as soon as another call could get through. He was in his mid-20s and had lived in the city for a couple of years.
“You have to come home. I want you out of there!” the hysterical mother cried.
“Mom, stop. This is my home. I need to stay here.” The words were controlled, firm. A man’s words.
And I heard, “Did you not know I need to be about my Father’s business?”
My third strongest memory of that day is the question that began to run through my mind:
What part did I play in this?
Yes, it’s true that eleven years ago I wore my crown as “Queen of Guilt” almost proudly. But this was different. This wasn’t a narcissistic belief that my words and actions controlled the universe. It was more a recognition that they do not control but they contribute.
It was a heart-broken acknowledgement that, sometimes almost without my realizing it, I too own a piece of humanity’s greed and violence and lack of love and unity.
Yes, I was violated. But suddenly I saw that I was also a violator. My safety, my home, my family, my credit cards, my car and the ease with which I can do nearly anything I want – all bought at what price?
The world came knocking on my sweet, middle class suburban door on that September 11th, and for a moment I removed my head from the sand and saw more than my own little sandbox.
There have been a lot of responses, since then, and I’ve explored them all. Denial, anger, self-protection, blame. But the only one that really sticks is “Don’t you know you, also, must be about God’s business?”
When that sand finally clears your eyes and ears, it’s a gift. However it happens, we all eventually experience the knock at the door. It’s the call to look inside and find out who we are and how our presence can benefit rather than break the world.
It’s such a temptation to just turn up the TV and ignore that knock. But we can’t afford that.
This world, my life, your life, is our home. We all need to be here. To be about the business of living and loving and building, not breaking.
Peace be with you, my friends, today and all days.