That September Day
12 Years ago today I was proctoring a standardized test to 6th graders at Mulberry Middle School when I heard about the 1st tower being hit via an email. I turned on the TV & rolled it toward me and away from the testing students just in time to see the 2nd plane hit. Hot tears steamed as I was forced to silently weep for the lives I knew ended the moment the 2nd tower dropped before my eyes what seemed like a lifetime later. A concerned student, seeing my tears, broke the mandated silence and asked, “What’s happening Mr. B?” I’ll never forget my answer: “If you are a Christian, pray.” I’LL NEVER FORGET!
That day was difficult because we were instructed by administration NOT to talk about the events with the students as facts were still rolling in. Parents frantically descended on the front office in an effort to gather their children close to them. A few were quite sure the Apocalypse was upon us. I wasn’t so sure they were wrong.
After the testing was over I began to share a bit about what was happening with the students in my room. “Some kids at lunch told us that some planes hit some buildings.” “That’s true.” I told them. But something was holding me back from disclosing all of the details.
“Do any of you know anyone who lives in New York?”, I asked. One hand was raised in the back of the room. Her name was Jennifer. I asked her who.
“My mom is in the National Guard and is stationed at the World Trade Center in New York.”, she proclaimed proudly.
There are moments in time where only the Holy Spirit will do; this was such a moment.
For much of the remainder of that day I draped my clumsy arm and my strong Faith around the sobbing shoulders of a confused & broken little girl named Jennifer as we tried to get answers from one of the most chaotic places in history. She found out 3 days later that her mom had only suffered a broken arm while trying to escape the building.
I remember that night very clearly. Americans everywhere were looking for something solid to hold onto. Without hesitation I packed up my family & headed to the strongest man I knew; my father-in-law, William O. Faulkner. I wasn’t looking for answers so much as something available, solid, & true.
A nation hung on the words of their Commander in Chief that night; our President, George W. Bush, as he addressed a sucker-punched nation. Political pundits with their aggressive agendas can analyze these events from the comfort of distance but I will proclaim it here…That night, the right man was there for the job. He too was solid & true and draped his arm around a hurting nation with strong faith.
History will trump what actually happened every time. I encourage you to take the time to write your own September 11, 2001 experience so those who come behind us will have the benefit of reading your honest words, and evaluate them in the context of one who was there. Our legacy demands it; our children deserve it.
Here’s an excercise I’d like for you to do:
1. I remember shortly after 9-11 Alan Jackson came out with a song from one American to another called, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.” The truth of the song resonated with me as much then as it still does today. Copy and paste, Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning, into YouTube and watch his live performance of it from the CMA’s a few months later and not the power point slide shows with the song in the background. Take a moment to close your eyes and bring the rawness of those moments back without the yoke of another persons images.
2. Take a few moments to write a note to all of those who will come behind your words one day about YOUR experience. Feel free to comment below if you’d like.
So, where were YOU on that September day?