Remember. On this day we are called to remember events that happened 20 years ago.
I remember where I was and how my day was planned. We had just returned from Okinawa after a four-year tour, our son had begun college on the western side of the state, we had bought a home and I was getting my North Carolina driver’s license on Sept. 11, 2001. I remember that day quite vividly.
I was watching a morning news show when the planes crashed into the towers. News commentators were unable to process what they were seeing. I stood in front of my TV transfixed as horror unfolded in real time. One by one the towers fell. We heard of another aircraft hitting the Pentagon. A plane crash in Pennsylvania. I called my husband on base. So many lives lost, so many heroic stories, and all of our lives changed. It was a watershed moment drenched in our tears and our fears.
I also remember how our understanding of being safe changed. Our sense of security as a nation crumbled as the buildings fell. We learned we were vulnerable. Our vulnerability became the vessel that holds our fears, our anger, our grief. When the sun rose on Sept. 12, 2001, we remembered what community means, what hope means, and we began the long process of healing and rebuilding. We sought comfort in one another and many who had strayed from their faith turned back to God.
Remember is an important word in Scriptures. In Lamentations, we hear Jeremiah grieve Jerusalem’s downfall with these words, “Jerusalem remembers, in the days of her affliction and wandering, all the precious things that were hers in days of old.” (Lamentations 1:7a NRSV)
We might not have imagined before Sept. 11, 2001, that we could understand Jeremiah’s grief at a visceral level or even thought we could sit at the steps of debris that once held so many hopes and dreams. Twenty years later, we struggle within the vessel of vulnerability trying to find a place to land, to step out and become whole once more. Within our hearts we still grieve our losses. We continue to fight against terrorism within our borders and across the seas. We want vengeance. We want security. We want to return to the time when we believed we were safe.
In the wisdom that works in God’s word, we hear the same laments and the same raw and real emotions. We also hear God tell us He will remember our sins no more.
God’s call to our hearts to turn towards God requires we see even our enemies as beloved children of God. Some might feel that in so doing, we tarnish the lives of those who have fought and died to bring about peace. Peace still eludes us. Jesus speaks of peace, His peace. The promise that God would save God’s people is before us.
My heartstone Scripture is Matthew 11:28-30 with Jesus’ invitation to come to Him, to let go of our burdens and receive rest, what I understand as peace, by being yoked to Jesus. He asks us to learn from him.
Terrorism remains real. Innocent people get caught in the web of the world’s violence. Consider with me the burdens we carry of anger, fear, hatred, envy, pride, grief, shame and I have not enough space to name them all. When we allow these burdens to crash into our hearts and minds, we crumble and fall.
God alone knows how the world will be saved and it may be one heart at a time. The way of peace may not be victory, but surrender, and not surrender to the forces of evil, but total surrender to God’s will in our lives. Maybe then we can love our neighbor, our enemy, ourselves as God loves us.
Today, we remember.