Remembering the Day that Changed Things

On September 11th, I usually think about the people who have a birthday on this day.  How their special day marks the remembrance of something so horrific in our history.  How the day they came into the world will forever be associated with unbelievable tragedy, fear, and the day America lost its innocence.

That day froze a space in my memory bank.  An ordinary day that could have easily washed away among the sea of the mundane, is still vibrant ten years later. 

Do you remember that day?

My husband and I were just stirring from sleep, enjoying some quiet before the children awakened when the phone rang.  My friend Kelly said, “Have you seen the news yet.”  I couldn’t imagine why she was calling so early to tell us to turn on the television.  One of us grabbed the remote, turned on the news, and then we saw it.  Smoke pouring from the two towers. Journalists doing their best not to show their emotions while reporting the facts.

Like honey dripping, fear slid slowly from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.  All the images of paper flying, bodies falling, people covered in ash.  It haunted me for days. Still does. Wondered what this meant for our country, for my family, for all those people trapped inside a burning building.

How would I explain this to my six and two year old?  How would this event affect their lives?

We lived directly under a flight pattern that took airplanes over our house in Phoenix as they flew in and out of the airport. That night, an eerie silence hovered in the darkness overhead.  The absence of air traffic reminded us of the tragedy, our vulnerability.  Realized all I had taken for granted considering my safety.

Challenged by the Forgiveness of Others

Later my thoughts turned toward forgiveness.  How does someone forgive this kind of evil?  Evil that dramatically shifted life for so many. 

Did this cross your mind?

I have these same thoughts when I visit Rwanda.  Have friends who remain the only survivors in their entire family after the 1994 genocide.  Wonder how they go on, smile, have hope. Even more, how they can forgive the person who brutally murdered their innocent children, parents, or a spouse. That kind of loss goes beyond my comprehension. Puts perspective on my own petty offenses.

Perpetrators and survivors in the genocide working side by side, sharing property, loving each other, extending forgiveness.  That kind of radical reconciliation gives me hope.  It illustrates to me that God’s redemption goes beyond my finite ability to comprehend.  Challenges my own heart and helps me to think differently, bigger.

When Peter asked Jesus ( Matthew 18: 21-22) how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him and suggested seven times as a good number, I can relate.   Seems adequate, a good healthy number.  He might have even thought he was being saintly with that suggestion.

Jesus answer must have exposed Peter’s heart when he responded, “No!  Seventy times seven.” I know it exposes mine.  Reveals that I can only be like Jesus by grace – what He is by nature.

We may never fully understand or receive the answer to the why questions about tragedy.  My prayer is that when I do face situations that challenge my understanding about goodness, I will respond by asking Him to help me to forgive instead of asking how many times I should forgive.  Respond like my friends in Rwanda, because true forgiveness lies within a heart of faith.

What do you remember about that day ten years ago?


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