My heart has been quiet these past few days. I watched some specials about 9-11 on TV this past weekend. I guess it has been long enough now that we can gently look back at that black day and talk about it. The shows I saw had survivors and family members of victims. They analyzed how events unfolded and the problems with emergency response. I think I must have watched three different documentaries. Each of them was well done and very respectful, even in their analysis of the failures they upheld the heroes. The general conclusion was that no one could have ever expected such tragedy and that despite our losses many things went right on that day. Hundreds of lives were saved amid the ones that were taken.
What most amazed me were the survivor stories. Hearing people describe the noises, sights and smells first hand brought tears to their eyes and mine. They talked about praying to God that death would come quickly. One lady said she was wondering how badly it would hurt to burn to death and how long it would take. This was brutal, honest heart talk. As several people spoke about inhaling the smoke and the burning sensation of eyes and throats, I could relate in a new way this year. I took in one deep breath of toxic smoke in my house and thought I was drowning; the lack of oxygen was so great. How in the world could these people be alive to tell the story of hours in smoke filled stairwells? It was dark in our house as fire fighters used flashlights to find their way. How could men climb 100 stories of a building empty of light but filled with smoke? I have a new respect for those men. I have a compassion for the survivors and grief of heart for the victims. The families, all handling the tragedy in different ways, are scarred by what happened on that day.
The television brought back the pain of that day in living color. It will continue its reminder throughout this week I am sure. I am drawn to it just as I was to Princess Diana’s funeral. It is historically sad and misplaced. My mind wonders as it tries to grasp the significance of such events. It wants to categorize and put this into a box somewhere…only it won’t fit in a box. There are no precedents. Nothing so heinous could have been imagined. And in the midst of the flashbacks I say do not forget. Let the horror do its work in your hearts. Life is uncertain. You never know. It could have been you. Allow the true questions to rise up. Where is God? How could he let this happen? Who is really in control? What would have happened if it had been me? Or my loved ones? Then the biggest of all…God do you really care? About us? About me? Then listen…quietly, silently listen for his answers. Wait as you watch the planes. Wait as you hear the commentary. As the fear rises up, wait for his peace. He says “I care more than you can ever imagine. My desire is for you to cry out to me. Even in the midst of the plans of evil men, I will uphold my beloved ones.”
Priorities changed on that day. Life and death became clear, everything else is just stuff. Families matter, loved ones matter, friendships matter…work is just a vehicle to the things that matter. When it becomes something else it is time to find something new. Hold on tightly to your new priorities. Do not forget how short life can be. The lesson of 9/11 is to say what needs to be said and don’t forget to Live Fully. Don’t ever forget.