I didn’t know anyone in the planes or in the towers. I didn’t lose a brother or sister, uncle or aunt, friend or acquaintance. But I knew that after this day, my life, the lives of all of us, would be forever changed.
On campus, there was a pall, a dread that defied the sunny, beautiful afternoon sky. Students stared silently at television screens, sat outside the campus center in tears, or wandered in and out of classrooms or offices looking to faculty, staff, and administrators for guidance. We tried to make sense of it all, and many of us gathered in the evening spontaneously in prayer for those who had been lost, who had lost loved ones, for the loss of the innocent and the invincibility that we had always taken for granted.
My wife, Almi, had been in New York City the weekend before with her friend and colleague, Sue Lechner. They had gone to take in a couple of shows and enjoy the sights. She commented that one of her favorite things about driving into the city was knowing you were close because the Twin Towers were a beacon from every direction. The day after the towers went down, Almi was on her way to work, and had to pull the car over on 10th Street; she was crying so uncontrollably that she couldn’t see the street. “I love New York,” she said over and over.
Only a year later, my son, Seamus, woke up on the first anniversary. As he often did, he asked what day it was. When I told him, a serious look came over his face. “It’s going to be all over the news,” he said. “What is?” I asked. “You know, dad – the planes, the towers, the sad people.” Even at the age of four, he knew that this particular day was different.
And today, we commemorate the 10th anniversary. I read that by the 25th anniversary, our college students will not know what 9-11 means. I’m not sure that even having lived through it, I completely know what it meant then, or what it means today. I do know that however I remember or relive the day, there is still a sadness that overcomes me. A sadness that there is still a void in the NYC skyline, that our nation is vulnerable, that each year we try to understand why it happened, but the pundits, theorists, and politicos still haven’t a cause or solution.
So I light a candle, I say a prayer, I gather with others who will never purge those memories of that day, and I do my best to trust that God will, in our times of confusion and distress, hold us in the palm of His hand, and keep us as the apple of His eye.