11 years ago I was a college freshman. Two weeks into the whole being-an-adult thing. I was sitting in my 8 o’clock English class when our teacher let us know that something very serious had happened and we were dismissed for the day.
I headed straight to the central hangout area on campus. The TV was on showing coverage of the planes crashing into the towers and the subsequent chaos happening at that moment in the affected parts of the country. Coverage of those running for their lives. And the ones running for the lives of others, back into the devastation, sacrificing their own.
We sat, all of us, new adults and seasoned, transfixed. The occasional outbursts of disbelief and sadness.
Eventually I walked back to my dorm room and met up with my roommate, Hannah. Every day that I knew Hannah she was hard and cynical. Distrustful of The Establishment. Always railing against patriotism and loyalty. And today, on the day that our nation was dealt a devastating blow, was no different.
It’s sad, yes, but I can’t stand this sudden show of patriotism! All the flags and people wearing red, white, and blue. It’s ridiculous!
I listened, confused. I didn’t know about this stuff, what she was saying. Was this how adults thought? Was it childishness and immature to rally together as a country? Was it ignorance? That brief conversation stained my thoughts about 9/11 for a long time.
But I’m older than I was then. And I’m a parent now. And today when I see this kind of image it slays me over and over.
The devastation that happened on 9/11 was outside of country and allegiance. It wasn’t a conceptual or metaphorical attack. It was an attack on people. Real, live breathing people who kissed their husband goodbye that morning. Who packed their son’s lunch. Who tucked their daughter into bed the night before. Who sat cozied up with their Bible and coffee before they put their work clothes on to head to the 9 to 5, never knowing it would be the last time.
So now I say to Hannah, with great compassion, that was crap. I’m not a new adult anymore. On the contrary, I see now that the real childishness (and I would daresay evil) lies with the person who would put an ideology before a people.
I’m not good at commemorating, but today my sons and I will ride to our post office and we’ll finally send those cereal boxes to Haiti. Because today should remind us not only of our own loss in our country, but the loss that people experience every day here and elsewhere. Loss because of poverty. Loss because of evil. Loss because of injustice.
And to those who would say that it’s not our responsibility. Nor our concern. Perchance we have enough troubles of our own? I say, that’s crap. People are people are people. And Jesus says we’re intrinsically valuable and deeply loved.
Do good today, in Jesus’ name.