Ten years ago today, I was a young mother who had just sent my first-grader off to school and was home with my three-year-old and one-year-old. The Quesenberry family was living in Birminghan, AL in the fall of 2001. My first awareness of the events of that tragic day came in the form of a phone call from one of our parishioners who asked me if I had heard the news. She then proceeded to tell me what was unfolding. From that moment on, I was glued to the images and reports of our national tragedy, today known simply as 9/11. I remember flying a flag on my car. I remember an impulsive desire to go to NYC as if my presence would make a statement to the world that ordinary citizens cared. I remember a strange sense of mourning for people I didn’t know who died that morning – on ariplanes, in skyscrapers or at a military desk.
For my family, the national horror receded just four days later when on September 14, 2001, my youngest brother was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in rural Indiana. That first weekend following the 9/11 attacks found me watching the media coverage in the waiting area of the trauma unit of Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. There were flags and ribbons on hospital bulletin boards; medical staff wore flags on their scrubs and the recovery and clean-up efforts were the biggest news of the week. But now I understood that, no matter the scale of a tragedy, for the families personally involved, the scope narrows down to the one you love. Being unable to talk to them, being helpless to aid them, being unsure if they would live – all part of the grief that obliterates the sun and clouds the future.
By God’s miraculous intervention, my brother left the hospital a few weeks later and after spending time in rehab was able to return home. His medical team thought it would be months before he walked again, but he was walking before Thanksgiving of that year. His recovery is a gift, and we are thankful.
Yet, many who suffered anguish on that day in 2001 did not experience a return to life. For them, grief has become the new normal. Missing that loved one is now an unwelcome, but routine, part of living. Today must be a bitter reminder of all that was lost and all that will never be.
In all of this, God is the constant. The terrors of earth cannot sway His power or shake His faithfulness. He has been there in the cataclysmic moments of my life; He is there for all who call on Him. Our world is cursed by sin and those who commit evil acts because of it, but He is a refuge for all who need His strength.
On every anniversary of 9/11, I have tried to listen to at least part of the ceremonial “reading of the names.” There are so many. They represent people of many ages, many vocations and many ethnicities, but all created in the image of God and loved by someone somewhere. God knew them all, and in the vast scope of horror on that day, He didn’t miss anyone in the smoke or lose sight of anyone in a stairwell or on the floor of a cockpit. He didn’t forget about firefighters who put others before self; He didn’t lose track of officers working in a government building. He didn’t overlook a plane pitching over quiet Pennsylvania. He is the God Who is good and loving though wicked men use their free will to violate the rights of others. He is the Christ Who weeps with the bereft. He is the Lord Who helps a nation pick up the fragments and build again. He is the Father Who is faithful to all who call upon Him. Today, I remember, and with my nation, I mourn. But not without hope.