a 13th anniversary reflection

I remember. Nearly 9.00 o’clock on that Tuesday morning 13 years ago. I lay in bed half awake contemplating the coming day; my musings interrupted by a WTOP (Washington, DC) radio news flash that an airplane had smashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.

I remember. A bit after nine, in shock listening to the report of a second plane crash.

I remember. Swiftly showering and dressing, then barreling down the stairs and through the door.

I remember driving to Capitol Hill, continuing to listen, hearing that a third plane had flown into the Pentagon. (Hours later we would learn, a fourth had crashed in a Pennsylvania field.) As I got closer, I beheld droves of people flooding the streets, walking, running away from the once seemingly secure marble buildings of government.

I remember a parishioner, a government worker, on her way home, stopping by the church office, asking: “Paul, what does it mean?” Desperately wanting to share a word of comfort, I mustered only a murmured, “I…don’t…know.”

I remember standing on the church office stoop looking out at an empty Pennsylvania Avenue. At a distance, two people walked down the street. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, yet, through the eerie sepulchral quiet, I could hear them.

I remember sending an email to my St. Mark’s community, beginning: There are no words to capture our shock and sadness, fear and anger, helplessness and, perhaps hopelessness…

And ending: In the midst of much we cannot understand, may we do what we can, praying for those who have died, those who have suffered grievous injury, their families and friends, and those who care for the suffering and the dying, and hold in our hearts those we love, remembering that we always only have today.

Today, September 11, 2014, we remember thirteen years ago. Perhaps where we were, what we did, what we said. 9/11 remains this generation’s mega-event indelibly branded on the psychic flesh of human consciousness (like December 7, 1941, in FDR’s famous phrase, the “date which will live in infamy” when Japanese war planes bombed Pearl Harbor or the November 22, 1963 assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy or the April 4, 1968 murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.).

Today, as a part of my morning meditation, I reflected on the final words of the mission statement of New York’s Ground Zero memorial, Reflecting Absence: “May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.”

Today, in a world still rife, at times, it seems, more greatly enraged with hatred, ignorance, and intolerance, these words enthuse my soul that I, in my time and space, can and will do all I can, when I can, and where I can to do, to be love and justice unconditional for all.

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2 thoughts on “a 13th anniversary reflection

  1. Paul,

    Thank you as always for your reflection. I didn’t know you on 9/11 but am sure you provided much comfort to your parishioners as well as to your Capitol Hill neighbors.

    I lost a dear friend in the WTC on that day as you know. I’ve tried to live up to my friend’s excellence, work ethic and professionalism in everything he did. He was the greatest of mentors, and I thought of him often today. As an aside, I had the most amazing career day today, Out of the blue, I was interviewed for an article about my book and asked by the DC Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to do a series of readings from my book in area libraries. Wow!! Though neither of these events are related to my security career, I think my friend who died in the WTC would be most proud of me. In addition, I have FINALLY learned how to have more balance in my life.. Fun, Family and then work!! It seems to be working well. This change was my gift to myself post 9/11 and to honor all of those who no longer have the ability to live their lives.

    I think often of all the people who died on that day, much more than on the anniversary of the horrific event. I’m not sure we are any safer today than we were prior to 9/11, but I believe that we certainly have a better and much more realistic sense of the fragility of life. Since 9/11 I express more freely my love for others so that if our parting is the last time I ever see them, they know they were loved. For all of us that look to our clergy to make sense of evil, I thank you for always being the Rock we can turn to.

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  2. Thanks, Loretta, you are kind. Not sure how much a “rock” I am. However, I am certain that I draw solace and strength from those like you who dare to be in relationship with others, honoring what is shared, holding sacred the memories when those you love die and are no more in this world. It requires a deep courage to love and relate to others, for all who do not only run the risk of having to coping with loss, they, you, we will encounter the loss that comes with death; either we will or they will when our time comes. So, my “rock”, thanks for your living witness!

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