School started the next day, so we took the opportunity to sleep in a bit. The attacks began as we were peacefully sleeping here on the west coast. It would be the last time in a long time that would happen. Peaceful sleep.
The phone jolted us awake. It was my nephew Steven, a first responder. “Are you watching this? Have you seen what’s happening?” As he launched into a description of the horrors he was watching on TV I felt the world slow down. What he was describing to me was a movie plot. Not real life. Not here. This is AMERICA. We don’t worry about attacks on our soil. Hollywood was playing its best trick yet, a’la War of the Worlds.
Although I knew they would talk about it the next day at school, I remember trying to shield my kids from the images. I had to shield myself at times, how could I explain to them why some people thought it better to jump out a window than to die huddled under a desk? My tongue went numb. But I know they felt it. The whole country and much of the world was in a somber mood and its depths reached to the farthest corners of our little lives.
The rest of that day found us going through the motions of first day of school preparation. Stopping by school later that day to meet the teacher of all things, all the other moms spoke in hushed voices while the teachers pretended everything was business as usual. It was surreal. It was unreal. Almost as if it wasn’t really happening. It couldn’t be happening. Some had loved ones stranded in other parts of the country. The uncertainty of our future was crushing.
And then, the stories came. Stories of heroism and stories of kindness. Stories of hope and stories of unity. Stories of missed flights and silent alarm clocks allowing that person to live and not die that day. Stories of hope in the midst of the cacophony of chaos. Before long, the stories of good outweighed the stories of evil, and that is what we clung to in the aftermath.
Yes, there is evil in this world. Jesus said the enemy came to steal and to kill and to destroy (John 10:10) If anything, the events of 9/11 brought that realization home for me more than anything else could have. But Jesus didn’t stop with stating the obvious. His next breath offered hope. “…but I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” I choose life.