Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why Remember?

On the morning of 9/11/01 I was in and out of meetings in an office building in Columbus, GA quite disconnected from the harsh reality of how American history was changing. By mid-morning I was standing in a break room with a dozen co-workers glued to the small television hanging on the wall. We were all too shocked to really take in the gravity of what had happened.

I remember leaving work to join the long lines at the American Red Cross where people flocked to give blood. I am sure we were picturing maimed, injured survivors who would be requiring surgery. We were so naive about the complete destruction that would leave far more widows and orphans than wounded.

That weekend I went away to the beach to celebrate my friend Laurie's bachelorette. We watched coverage for hours in our pajamas as family members held up homemade posters in search of their 'missing' loved ones. All those faces...where had they gone? Surely that had not just been wiped from the face of the Earth with one cruel attack?

In retrospect, that naivete was protection of sorts, because on this day 11 years later, when I sat with my laptop on the floor of my living room and watched a video compilation of the live events unfolding, I could not contain my emotions.

On 9/11/01 I was shocked and saddened. Today I was heartbroken and terrorized. As twitter and facebook have been littered all day with the words "I remember," I found myself asking why remember? Can't we just keep moving forward? It is painful to look back. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we deliberately walk back down memory lane to the places of such hurt?

The answer came in a quote most recognize. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana

But what, really, do we need to remember from such tragedy? Fear? Vengeance? Despair? I would rather not dwell on such negativity. I don't want those lost lives to be in vain. I want us to learn, as a people, how to be better. There are many other lessons, of course, but this afternoon I am stuck on a few of the more positive ones.

1- Life is but a vapor. Live each day to the fullest, striving to do well with what you have been entrusted. Tragedy strikes when you least expect it...even on gorgeous blue sky mornings in September. Don't let that terrify you, let it motivate you. Love well. Be grateful. Don't take anything for granted.

2- We must learn to love not just those 'like us,' but all we share this planet with--even when we don't see eye to eye. Sometimes our neighbors are dead wrong. Sometimes I am. The smoldering sites where hate-propelled planes crashed are striking visual reminders of the destruction that happens when people draw lines in the sand and hatred & evil are left unchecked.

Even today lives are wrecked by our blind ambitions and selfish pursuits. I don't know about you, but most of the sin that permeates my life gets out of control when I stop thinking about its implications on other people.

It usually doesn't look like terrorists on planes. Our soul's Enemy is far sneakier than that. Gossip, affairs, lying, angry/hurtful reactions, greed, substance abuse, good ole fashioned selfishness...those things topple families, careers, relationships, reputations & lives in the same way those fuel-propulsed airliners took down the twin towers.

We must lean in to the love of our Father. We must say NO to the need to serve ourselves and feed our prides at all costs. There is always a cost. God does not hate us and want us to be miserable. He is FOR us. His precepts are for His glory AND for our protection.

3- It is tempting to be overwhelmed by the evil in the world--but that is giving it more power. Let's not just remember the devastation and the loss of that day. Let's be moved to action by the selfless response of so many. Let's be bold and brave in our love for fellow man.

I love the perspective offered by the late Mr. Rogers of preschool television fame:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr. (Fred) Rogers 

May we allow the Lord to use us to be those helpers...the salt, light & love of this world. This world is not our home forever, but it is for now. May we represent the Lord well in the places he has put us.

9/11/01 was a tragic day. The devastation and ripple effects seem unconscionable, even after years of reflection. It hurts to go back, but doing so honors those we lost and allows us to learn from their legacy. Let's take the lessons from that day with us into the future.

This is why I choose to remember.


Whitney said...

Beautiful and important post Jen. My mom was just asking me this morning why I watch all of the specials each year - I think I will send her here! You answered that question much better than I.

shannon said...

Thank you for your words. I live 10 miles from NYC, saw the smoke, heard the silence of airports being shut down and military jets flying above. My husband couldn't get home that night, my bridesmaid's now husband escaped and decided that day he would propose. We will always remember those lost. May God bless those lost and those that protect us today.