There are days sketched on my parents’ and grandparents’ minds forever… Pearl Harbor, crowded around the family radio, hearing the unimaginable. The day JFK was shot, my mom’s lunch lady was crying as she went through the line. The day that Martin Luther King was shot and there were curfews and chaos and sadness in their city.
In my mind…it’s this day. 22 years old and fresh to Texas, the second week in grad school, I was walking down the curved marble stairs after my 8 o’clock class. At the bottom, stood a mixture of students and professors, huddled in disbelief, eyes glued to the TV in the foyer. And the Trade Towers were on fire. And the world has never ever been the same; our innocence was lost in a moment.
That next summer, the youth group I was interning for took a trip to New York. There we were, over 100 of us, fumbling with subway cards, walking miles and miles in matching tee-shirts (not exactly the way I wanted to experience NYC for the first time), and searching for bathrooms that weren’t to be found. I was feeling embarrassed. Ugh, why are we here? We look like tourists! Until we arrived at Ground Zero. Suddenly, there was reverence. Even among the 7th-grade boys.
There’s something about standing on the ground where people have fought for life and lost, that sends chills through your bones.
In the summer of 2002, there was a huge makeshift memorial at Ground Zero. A wall, with words from loved ones and total strangers, scribbled all over it, US flags, balloons, pictures. There was too much to look at. I read a few messages and then took in the scene in its entirety.
But then something caught my eye that has stayed with me clearly for 15 years: a snapshot of 2 babies in matching high chairs, with the words, “look how big we are now, daddy” written on the picture. And there I stood and cried for those twins who didn’t have a daddy and their mama who didn’t have a husband anymore.
And now, 15 years later, I still think of them, first thing every single year. They are much bigger now, in high school, learning to drive. Maybe they’ve moved to the Midwest, maybe they are still in Manhattan. Maybe they have an adopted dad, who loves them as if they were his all along. I don’t know. But every year I think of them and pray for them. While my false sense of American invincibility was forever rattled about this time on September 11, 2001, they were losing their dad. Now that my twins are about the age they were in that picture, I think of their mother, who lost her best friend, her help, and likely her joy.
Today we remember. We pause. We reflect. We honor.
Twins, today I think of you and pray for you and your mom. And we remember your dad who walked into work on a normal September day and never came home. I hope his legacy has been firmly implanted in your hearts and minds and that you are comforted today.