Apparently, I am somewhat unpatriotic. I read several friends blogs over the past few days and most of them had written posts on September 11th. I didn’t forget what day it was when I went to work Sunday. I didn’t forget last week as we prayed in nearly every class. But I didn’t feel compelled to commemorate the day. My mum told me about a movie they watched in their faith gathering–about a man who ran up and down the stairs, ushering people out of the tower. He never came out himself. He wasn’t even a firefighter. He just knew what to do and he did it.
My mum cried. Which made me cry.
I read a snippet from another’s blog that had been reposted by a friend. He asked the rhetorical question of whether or not eh was part of a 9/11 generation. He said that 9/11 happened two weeks into his college years. What do you do with that?
I was in eighth grade. I was coming out of a science class when someone came bursting in saying a plane had crashed into a building in NY. I didn’t know what the WTC towers were. For a few moments, we couldn’t understand what the other student was saying–was it an accident? How could a plane accidentally fly into a building? And then the startling news as we turned on the tv in my next class: not one, but two planes had flown into skyscrapers in NY. And neither had been an accident.
I came of age, I suppose, in a weird time for America. It seemed that people around me were newly frightened of the world. I didn’t understand that. I didn’t experience that fear. I haven’t lived in dangerous places. But I think I have always been aware. We lived in a bad section of town in California. We were in and out of TJ and Mexico City. There is no stability in those places. But it had always been stable here, at “home,” in America.
But so much has happened since then. We watched the stock market and the financial system come apart while I was in college and I watched as friends had to quit school because they couldn’t pay their bills. We watched while the Tsunami hit and took thousands of lives and I watched as my peers handed me money and I sent it to Red Cross and knew that it would never be enough. We watched as the Haitian earthquake happened and I stood lamely to the side with a worthless undergrad degree while others went to serve in ways that I could not. We watched as banks went default and countries belly up and I selfishly hoped that it wouldn’t happen here because I had loans and no money with which to repay them if they came due. We watched as suddenly things in the world hit home for us, here. Because they weren’t so far away.
I don’t think that, for myself, they have ever been too far away. But I think that is because I ahve always longed to be in those places. Chechnya, Pakistan, Tunisia, Israel. Places where there is need and yet I have nothing to offer them and God has always said no. But it was interesting to watch my peers recognize the nearness of those tragedies and be able to relate to them.
Some have dismissed them as punishments by a vengeful God or simply natural disasters that will always blight our existence. Some have grown disillusioned and find themselves almost afraid or hopeless because the future can hardly promise anything good. Some have been driven to go, to help, to do something–anything. Some have sat back and watched and wondered about when it will end and what our purpose is in the meantime.
I only remember the news coming to class that a building had fallen in NY.
I only remember watching with horror the tsunami and the devastation on television.
I only remember sitting in OMH cursing the banks while reading the NY Times as the banks failed.
I only remember hearing about the Middle Eastern Spring on the radio first, from friends second, from the news third.
And yet, there’s something in those memories tha tis alive and well today. It has started to reshape the world for Americans. But in other ways, it has done nothing.
I’m in seminary. I have school loans even while Iceland has gone bankrupt and Greece is looking to default. I am studying even while schools are threatened in other countries. I am pursuing a career that may or may not exist by the time I am done with this education. And the world is a very unstable thing. But…life has gone on. And life will go on, sadly, in much the same way as it always has.
I think that is why I struggle to commemorate September 11th. What did it do to us? Send us in to two wars that were unnecessary and unwinable in the traditional meaning of the word? And yes people died. But people are dying of AIDS and Starvation and Genocide
and what are we doing about those things? What will we ever do about those things? What can we do about those things?
What does it mean to live in this world that is chaotic and coming undone at every seam?
What does it mean to live and serve? To bring life and hope?