I am sitting in a cool room, lit by golden beams of sunlight streaming through the window. Looking out I see cardinals flit to and fro around the backyard, as well as the occasional bright color of a butterfly fluttering past. I am surrounded by the voices of my children, as they laugh and play in the next room with their neighborhood friends. All afternoon I’ve been mentally working on a grocery list, while Jon’s been tending to the yard work. In the background I hear the low hum of the dishwasher as it completes its cycle. And though I wish I could imagine it away, I know there is still a smallish mountain of laundry just waiting to be washed and dried and folded. It’s another perfectly normal day and somehow everything seems right in my little world ... just as it did ten years ago, before the towers fell.
Ten years ago in late August, I moved with my family to Monterey, CA. Joel was 17 months old. I was 7 months pregnant with Nathan. We moved there because my husband was in Army training, learning the Arabic language oddly enough. At the time, my biggest problem was figuring out childcare for my toddler when I went to my OB appointments every other week now that we were living in a new home so far away from all of our loved ones.
On the morning of September 11th, I was awakened by a phone call from Matt. It was very early in CA. I remember him saying that I should turn on the TV because something big was happening. I stumbled into the living room and turned on the news just in time to watch second plane crash into the WTC.
I had a terrible knot in my stomach. After a few quick minutes, I turned it off. For the rest of the day, I simply cared for my toddler, trying to pretend that life was the same, even though I knew that life would never quite be the same again.
Every so often over the next few days, I would try to watch a bit of the news coverage, but I never really could watch for very long before I would turn the TV back off. I told myself it was because I didn’t want Joel to watch those images. That was true, but honestly it was more because I didn’t want to watch those images either.
During those first few days and weeks following 9/11, time seem to drag by so slowly. I was always hyper-aware that we had been attacked and that our nation was at war with an unseen foe. But somehow, after a while, life sort of moved on. Within just a couple of months of 9/11, I had a new son to care for as well as a very active toddler to keep up with ... my life was moving forward and I was busy trying to keep up!
And now, ten years have passed. Ten autumns, ten winters, ten springs, ten summers ... full circle and back around.
Ten years ... yet somehow it doesn’t truly seem like it was all that long ago.
Ten years ago, I didn’t know that my precious toddler would grow into a tall, lanky young man, who would someday wear glasses. I certainly didn’t imagine that my sensitive boy would turn out to have a heart of courage. He grew into this child who wrote letters to presidents, won math bees, ran for office at his school clubs, asked his friends to donate money to children in Iraq instead of giving him birthday gifts. All I knew then was that his sweet, shy smile that melted my heart, and ten years later that still hasn’t changed.
Ten years ago, all I knew about Nathan was his name ... and that he kicked harder than his older brother. My California Beach Boy was born into post 9/11 America. Over the years he has grown into a chubby baby with the great laugh and then transformed with time into a handsome 9 year old ... big dimples, bright blue eyes, and a personality as big as his 5‘ 0”, 110 lb frame. He has 1001 interests and at least that many talents. Intensely loyal. Protector of the right. Defender of the weak. This is the son I carried ten years ago today.
Ten years ago, I never even dreamed that I’d be the mother of a little girl. But two years after 9/11, Julia breathed her first breath, and I’m forever blessed because of her pinkish giggles, purple ponies, and passion for life. Full of cuddles and hugs, yet fiercely strong-willed. Ten years ago today I didn’t know how much I needed my Julia.
Ten years ago I was married to another man. I thought I was going to die when my marriage fell apart. But God picked up the ashes of my life and molded it into something much more beautiful than I ever dreamed possible. Because of that, when I look back upon the last ten years of my life, I see ten years of blessings.
Of all the blessings from the past ten years, the best of them all has been Jon.
Jon. Tall, hazel-eyed, guitar-playing Jon. Like a warm wind blowing on a cool spring day ... like a cold glass of lemonade in the heat of summer ... like toasting cold fingers in front of a flickering fire on a brisk autumn night ... like gingerbread smells and singing familiar carols in the deep of winter ... my Jon. Comfortable. Cozy. Wrapped up in love. His name means “God has given” and that is exactly what he is ...a gift to me from God.
And so Jon brought to me blessing after blessing after blessing. Through his love, I gained two beautiful daughters ... Maddie, brown-eyed beauty with the gift of humor and laughter, and sweet, freckled Meg with the heart of gold. He gave me new friends to count among those old and dear. He gave me new perspectives on life. He brought me to a new place to call home. Through Jon I was given a new life, all fresh and bright again. These were my gifts, given to me by God through Jon. Ten years ago, I never knew what was going to happen, how my life would change, how a personal tragedy would eventually turn my life into something far more meaningful.
Grace has that sort of affect, I think. I look back on my life with grace-colored glasses and see the fingerprints of God over it all.
Grace has been poured upon my life, drenching my spirit and now everything has changed. Not perfect or without flaw because we still live in a fallen world and long for the perfection of paradise. Yet with grace, grace, grace we catch a glimpse of God’s glory.
This has been my life the past decade or so. From day to day it doesn’t seem like much ever happens, and yet when looked back on all at once ... well, my how things have changed! And all I did in the interim was live.
That’s the thing that seems so shocking and stunning about 9/11. All those victims ... those faces ... those numbers ... they represented real people. People who were in the middle of living life. On September 11, 2001 they were just working or taking trips or running errands. Life was happening and then suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically it was over.
In the past ten years, I’ve often heard it said that on September 11, 2001 life as we knew it in America ended. Perhaps. But I can honestly say that I don’t really live my life much differently than I did ten years ago. I still do the things I’ve always done ... care for my family, go to church, shop, drive, travel, etc. There’s no fear. I don’t do these sorts of things differently. Life’s not changed in that way. Not in the day to day living.
And yet, I can’t help but think of 9/11 and grieve for all the lives lost ... lives lost in planes crashes, burning buildings, toppling towers, and even on the battlefield in the Middle East. Living life as each of us do, one breath at a time, only to suddenly find that the next breath doesn’t come. Life is over. Life is done.
And this is the tragedy of 9/11 ... the senseless deaths of so many who were just going about life.
This morning, at about 9:15 am, I sat next to my Maddie-girl as she prayed and asked Jesus Christ to be her Saviour and to give her the blessed assurance of heaven. I don’t know if there is a greater joy on this earth than watching a person (especially when it is your child) experience the grace of Christ for the first time.
What Maddie did this morning has given her peace ... peace that when the tragedies come and the towers fall, she will not be alone. She has assurance that in her life there will be grace ... grace to drench her spirit and grace to turn her ashes into beauty. But mostly, she now knows that when life stops for her, when she no longer takes a new breath, that she will step into paradise ... perfect paradise where grace will no longer be needed.
When we turn to God and accept His grace in our life, falling towers can no longer threaten us. We will be able to live confidently in knowing that bad times and tragic events may happen, but God will not let us go. We will not fear for we are not alone. No matter what happens here on earth, the best is yet to be when we finally draw our last breath and go home to paradise in the presence of our Saviour.
No, I will never forget what happened on 9/11/01. But, I’ll never forget what happened on 9/11/11 either ... for in the grand scheme of life, the hope and the peace of salvation is far, far more important than the chaos of tragedy.
My prayer for each of my friends is this ... that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”