Tragedy has a way of searing itself upon our memory. That’s not to say that the sadness of tragedy always remains as strong, but that memories of events, people, and surroundings stick with us longer, and sometimes forever.
Growing up I remember hearing stories from my mom and grandparents about where they were when JFK was assassinated. My grandmother would tell of the neighbor rushing over and between tears and sobs told her that “the President was just shot!” As I look back on events of 9/11, I realize now that this day is my “JFK memory” and 9/11 will be my “where were you when” story.
Physics lab … that was what was on the agenda for that morning. It was the start of my junior year at college, and I was trying to get myself out of bed to make my way to class. My hectic morning breakfast, Pop Tarts and Mountain Dew, was broken by a phone call from my mother. Honestly, I didn’t have time for the call because I was already running late. I answered quickly and she didn’t even bother greeting me, but abruptly said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center in New York.” I can still hear the words plain as day in my mind, and my brush off reply, “Thanks for the heads up. I am late for class, did you need anything else?” We quickly ended our short conversation, and I made my way from the dorms to the Physics Building.
For the life of me I can’t remember what happened between my walk from the dorms to class. Sadly, I was probably too self-absorbed in what was going on in my life to really give it much thought, but that all changed once I entered class.
Everyone was standing around watching the TV, and not in a way that I had ever experienced before. There was such a deafening silence in the room from those in attendance as each individual hung on the words of the many news reporters. I remember asking my lab partners what was going on, and them telling me that the TA was just going to let us watch what was going on in New York. It was puzzling to me for a moment as I was still under the impression that this might be an accident, but they filled me in that another plane had hit the south tower, and that the news was saying they were receiving reports that this wasn’t an accident.
The remainder of the day turned into a blur, but I do remember it being very chaotic on campus as almost all activity ceased. Some professors were cancelling classes; others just had us watch the news. I remember walking through the student union and seeing a huge mass of people gathered around the TVs. As the day progressed the look of utter disbelief on the faces of people seemed to spread and overtake us all.
As the late afternoon and evening approached, I remember just sitting in my room watching the continued coverage. My roommate was from Philadelphia and had a connection to the situation that I couldn’t understand as I had no family in harm’s way. Thankfully everyone he knew was safe; and while that was a comfort, it was incredibly difficult to feel any relief as we all seemed to be gripped in the fear of what’s next? What will happen tomorrow?
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11th. We will be gathering at Peace Lutheran Church that Sunday (click here for worship times) to remember God’s promises in the face of tragedy, to receive comfort from God’s care for us, to commemorate those who lost their lives, and to lift up those that they left behind. I would invite you to share your memories of this day and to share your “where-were-you-when” story; just comment on this blog to share your story with our Peace family. Then make sure to come back and see what other people have shared. As God’s people, we’re all in this together. We remember together. We mourn together. We look forward in hope together. Please share your memories with us.