Several years ago, as a young pastor’s wife, I sat around a breakfast table with several of the older ladies in our church. They gathered once a month for a time of prayer and I enjoyed getting to know them better in this way. On this November morning, the ladies began reminiscing about where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot. Many had been home with their children and heard it on the TV. Some received phone calls from a neighbor or family member. As they circled around the table, I was contemplating my answer – I was 9 months old at the time and didn’t remember a thing. But something interrupted the circuit around the table and the subject changed to an even more somber one—where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor? Now I was really in a pickle. Not only was I not alive when Pearl Harbor took place, my mother would not be born until two years after the events of Pearl Harbor! I didn’t even feel like a young pastor’s wife anymore. I felt more like a toddler who had accidentally wandered into the Adult Sunday School class – bewildered and trying to find my way home!
I have a new appreciation for that conversation those women shared on that November morning. Today, September 11th, this question has gone around again: Where were you when you heard about the 9-11 attacks? And this time, I remember exactly where I was. I had been trying to get on our dial-up Internet service for several minutes, without success. Finally, I decided something must be slowing things down. So I decided to wait a bit and turned on the TV to watch a bit of news instead. To my utter shock and amazement, the screen was filled with images of the World Trade Towers on fire, the Pentagon burning. Within about 10 minutes of turning on the TV, the first tower fell; then the second. I sat in stunned silence, tears flowing down my face, hugging my 6-month old daughter as I tried to grasp the reality of all the children whose parents would not come home that night. Like so many, I sat in silence for several hours, watching the catastrophic events unfold and the rescue efforts begin. My older boys came home from school, and we watched some more. No one had to say it – we all knew we were witnessing a defining moment in history, one that would change the world forever.
My daughter, six months old at the time, is part of the generation that does not remember the events of September 11th. She knows of them from the pictures she has seen and the history lessons she has heard. But it is not personal to her. No doubt she will experience a defining moment of history in her lifetime. My wish is that she will witness a historic moment that brings out the best in people. A moment that is defined by peace, not war; love, not hatred; compassion, not violence. September 11, 2001 may have been one of the worst days in our country’s history. But as someone today said, September 12, 2001, was one of our best.