Yesterday, I was listening to a speech in which a student, a little older than the “traditional” students in the room shared that one of the reasons he joined the military was the September 11th attacks on the United States. After he was done with his speech, a very well done and passionate self introduction, we had a moment to talk about the happenings of September 11th. There was a problem, however, in the room because my class full of freshman were born in 2000 and the happenings of September 11, 2001 are not something they can remember because, well, they were just coming into the world.
So, what began as a remark from a student, started a conversation about how this day changed the lives of Americans forever. Things that they assume are a normal way of life, to those of us who lived through the shift, were debated and questioned and to this day are a pain, especially in the world of travel. I got some questions, like, where were you when this happened? What were you doing? How did you find out? What was it like to watch this unfold on the news? What were your emotions on that day, that week? (It reminded me of when I asked my parents questions about the shooting of JFK)
I also have to admit my shock at the fact that so many years have passed that our college freshman, and really any traditional student in today’s university has little memory of a day in which most of us who are older probably wish we could erase from our minds and return to the innocence that existed before the horrific attack. However, something neat happened in our conversation, those who were a little older and had memories, shared them. Others listened. One student shared that her mother was in New York at the time of the attacks and was supposed to be in the towers, and for a few days after they were afraid that she had been killed…but evidentially they heard from her and she was safe. We talked about what is was like to fly on a plane before Sept. 11th and life without the TSA.
In this conversation, I remembered. And in my remembering, I thought about how important it is to communicate to young people the stories that matter. Stories that effect their lives in such direct and powerful ways and yet they, because of their “innocence of youth” that I consider a great thing, don’t have a lens by which to see. Today, my feed is filled with pictures and memes, reminders to remember and short sayings about those we lost on Sept 11, 2001. Today, as we remember a day that most of us would like to forget, your kids are going to come home from school with questions, young people are going to see news clips, and let those of us who remember not do so in silence…but let’s give the gift of our story so that remembering is done out loud and the empty pictures of the past can be filled with understanding and emotion, purpose and meaning.
I was in Memphis, TN…we had just finished a staff meeting when the youth minister reported that something was happening in New York City. We set up a TV and watched the news coverage, glued in disbelief that this was happening. It unfolded like one of the apocalypse movies that Hollywood was producing…but those weren’t stunt devils and this wasn’t staged…it was horrifying. Personally, I couldn’t turn it off and for days I felt sick to my stomach. Like most Americans, I was filled with tears and resolve when President Bush gave his speech at ground zero. I recalled visiting the twin towers on my high school senior trip to NYC…how big they were and how afraid of heights I am. The church hosted lunch prayer vigils in the chapel, spaces that were normally locked throughout the week were open to the community as all of us were in this together. Sad, angry, confused, scared, disoriented, and devastated were just some of my responses to this event. And…I had no personal connection meaning that none of my friends or family were taken on that day, so I cannot even begin to understand what some of my brothers and sisters went through. Like other tragedies, we have moved on and adjusted life…but it was just too huge.
One of the students commented that one of her friends was born on September 11 and she can’t stand being born on this day because it is a day of remembrance for the nation but a day that should be celebrated in her life. You know, that young woman is right to some extent, because often out of tragedy and hurt and pain, life not only continues, but is born anew and to only focus on the tragedy is to, in a way, continue to give power to those who performed the evil acts. So, to all those who were born today I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and we are so glad that you have given us something to cheer about today. May you live each day knowing that you are a reminder of the good in the midst of bad days. And don’t be afraid to celebrate your birth…And to the younger generations, take our stories and our memories and be empowered to make the world something better than our experience of it. Continue to live, hope, dream, and work…and as we resolved on that day in 2001, September 11, never let a tragedy dictate who you are, allow it to influence your resolve and motivate your desire for goodness. When we tell our stories, remember the past, live on, and work for the future…well, then we are truly human beings, and let’s not settle for anything less!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.