Sunday, September 11, 2011


I don't know why I even applied makeup this morning.  I knew I'd be inundated with 9/11 sob stories.  I knew it would be unavoidable today.  I knew I'd be going to my brother's house to do my weekly Bible study with his kids.  I knew I should try to work Patriots Day in somehow.  But, dealing with ages ranging from 5 through 14, I was stumped on ideas how to. 

As a warm up, I listened to part of a 9/11 sermon that was playing on the radio on the drive over.  It was by one of those "shouty" preachers, so I'm not even sure what his message was about. (I've never responded well to shouty preachers. If I'm not being grounded, stop yelling at me!)  But, just the topic at hand forced images of falling bodies into my head and I started weeping on M-5 at 65 mph.

For some reason that's my 9/11 image.  For some people it's the image of one of the planes hitting one of the towers that will repeat in their heads on constant replay this weekend.  For some people it's the image of the massive skyscrapers tumbling to the ground like a stack of blocks a toddler kicked over.  Maybe, for you, it's the people in face masks running helplessly from the billowing wave of ashes and soot.  For me, it's the jumpers.

I've created a theory that comforts me when I think of these bodies.  When I was about eight years of age, I fell from a tree in the backyard.  I couldn't have been more than fifteen feet off the ground.  I don't remember falling.  I don't remember landing.  I only remember waking up a few minutes later to my mom checking my eyes for a concussion.  I believe God built us with a mechanism of losing conscienceness when our bodies are facing a state of shock.  If I couldn't stay conscious throughout a fifteen foot drop, my hope is that these victims that fell had their spirits taken from them long before impact. 

I comfort myself with that thought, but it's the witnesses I cringe for.  I watched a documentary a few years back that just happened to be following a team of firefighters on that fateful day.  ( From its footage is that famous shot of the first plane flying low throughout the skyway of NYC.) These firefighters, trying to save what lives were still savable inside before the buildings would inevitably collapse, had the added concern of having to avoid the falling bodies and listen to them each one hit ground.  A sound that on film I will never forget.  How much must it haunt the ones who were forced to hear it live?  Another touching documentary from the History channel (102 Minutes That Changed America is made up of footage from everyday citizens that got caught up in this madness and happened to have their home video cameras at hand.  These were not trained emergency professionals.  They've never been drilled in advance for such an attack.  How on earth do they cope with these memories?

Well, I managed to wipe away my tears on the road and pull it together enough to get through Bible study. After our devotional I asked the kids if they knew today was.  After slightly accurate guesses of "Sunday", "your birthday" and "The Sabbath Day" I hinted a little by telling them the date.  The oldest, of course, knew much of the events of September 11, 2001.  She was four years old at the time and she's been learning it in school and we've been answering her questions about it for years.  The nine-year old knew it had something to do with planes crashing, but wasn't sure if it was just some sort of accident.  And, the five-year-old was content enough to just know it was my birthday weekend and would we still be going canoeing?

I explained the events of this tragic day in the most child-friendly language I could create.  Somehow that lead me to tell the story of United 93 and what heroes those passengers were in fighting back.  In the middle of the retelling I began to no longer recognize the voice coming out of my mouth.  Oh no.  I'm crying again.  Instead of stopping to gather myself, I made the mistake of pushing on and overcompensated by talking even louder.  Oh no, now I'm sobbing.  I know this because the kids all looked up at me to see what strange kind of creature had stolen my voice and taken over my body. 

The action of me trying to cheer myself up and sound audibly decipherable again led us to stories of good things that came during this tragic time.  I taught them how in the Pentagon, renovations were being done at the time, so the area that was hit wasn't nearly as populated as the terrorists would have hoped and was actually better built for such an attack then any other side of the Pentagon's structure. (  Insanely good luck or God's intervention? 

I told them of how God provided for our own family's distraction.  My older sister was pregnant with my twin nephews at the time.  Not being due for another two-and-a-half months, the day after 9/11 she went into early labor.  (The doctors blame toxemia, a small part of me still blames the terrorists.)  These boys were forced into the world much too early for expected survival.  But, after months of touch and go health and development, these babies got to come home before their due date even!  Such love provided to us to focus on and distract us from the worries of the world.  That's our 9/11 story.

I know there are people that doubt a loving God would even allow something like the attacks of 9/11 to ever happen.  These people don't acknowledge that God chose to create us each with our own free will.  There have been those who have chosen to use theirs in the most despicable of ways and others choose to do good work.  He never promised us He would seize control of any of our actions, just that He'd faithful to those who believe.  Faithful to some, might mean shielding us from any bad event that could possibly come our way.  But, is that really what faith is?

I know my family prayed and prayed as this tragedy unfolded.  I know we were met with even more shock and confusion in the possible loss of my first two nephews, my parent's first two grandsons, my sister's first two children that she so badly wanted... and we prayed and prayed some more.  I'm glad our family's 9/11 story had a happy ending. I'm glad that we were granted the peace that passes all understanding that we certainly weren't providing for ourselves.  I can't answer the spiritual mysteries of the world with my tongue or with my hand, but they've certainly been proven to my heart.

I don't know if I made a mistake in teaching a kindergartner of these events too young, too soon.  I left out the jumpers, I baby-talked the definition of "hijacking".  I don't know how the families of the victims of this day carry on and explain it to their young.  None of us are perfect.  There's no engraved rules on how to tell this story and which parts to leave out.  I'm just thankful that as surely as I too will never forget... I have also been blessed with the gifts of coping and of moving forward.

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