It's been nine years. Sometimes that seems like forever. Sometimes it feels like yesterday.
When I was growing up, everyone seemed to have a "Where were you when..." story for some of histories important moments. They didn't have to explain the moment. Just mention it. Not even a sentence, just a phrase and everyone knew. Pearl Harbor. Kennedy assassination. These were not moments that seemed unimportant at the time and became significant in retrospect. Everyone who heard the news was slapped with the realization that history had been made.
I used to wonder if there would be an event like that in my life. Sure, there were times when something happened that was important or memorable to me but not everyone noticed.
I can't say I was hoping for a tragedy but I think I was expecting one. It seems that tragedy slams into you, shocks you into awareness and burns itself into your mind forever.
The big moment came September 11, 2001. I was married, living in Germany with my military husband and 2 children. My daughter was just 6 weeks old. I had taken her and her older brother to the health clinic for shots. We got home and turned on the TV. It was after 3pm European time. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were on. I thought, "Oh, the Today Show is still on. I guess it isn't as late as I thought." I was busy doing things with the kids, changing diapers, taking shoes off, etc. After just a few minutes, I began to register what they were saying on the TV.
I stood in the living room, staring at the TV, hugging my kids, my heart feeling like lead. My husband called to say he wasn't coming home. I had already guessed that. I don't remember how long I watched. I remember seeing the second plane hit. I remember hearing the news that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. I remember hearing about the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
I was in shock. Our country was being attacked. I remembered scriptures warning of the judgements of God in the Last Days. I thought of the spiritual state of our nation. I worried about my husband and his fellow soldiers. Of course we would respond. But what would it mean to our family?
I know I went to bed because I remember waking up the next morning. There was no moment of calm before the memory returned. I lay in bed, staring at the morning light streaking across the ceiling. I remember thinking "It was real. It really happened. It wasn't a nightmare." The light seemed out of place in a world that had suddenly turned so dark and full of fear.
Over the next few weeks, life was a blur. I grew tired of watching the parade of horrific images and stories that crossed the TV screen. We only got one channel and it was news 24 hours a day. I watched "You've Got Mail" over and over. I think I liked it because the characters are so in love with New York City. There is even a song in the sound track that says "I guess the Lord must be in New York City". I felt that sentiment myself.
Sometimes I put in "A Bug's Life" for the kids. It was equally positive and encouraging. I grabbed on to the idea that we, as a nation, were strong and good. I had complete faith that we would be able to recover from this and be stronger for it. We would not let a bunch of bullies push us around.
Things haven't quite turned out the way I imagined.
Still, the world has not been the same. I feel like I grew up that day. I realized that there is evil in the world, bigger and badder than I ever imagined. I also learned that even though the Lord sometimes lets bad things happen, He is there to comfort us afterwards. I also learned that there are a lot of good people in the world. Many lives were sacrificed that day in the most selfless and honorable way possible. And many have continued to sacrifice their time, talents, family life, sleep, emotional stability, physical health and even their lives because of that day.
So, here we are, nine years later. Are we better for it? Have we learned anything? Are we stronger? Or have we put it behind us? Have we tried to forget that day and pretend it never happened? Maybe that is the only way we can sleep at night.
I don't know if it is possible to prevent something like this from happening again. I fully expect more tragedy in the future. So what can we do? Anything? My answer is to be prepared. Not just having food storage or emergency kits...or guns as some suggest. We each should be adding oil to our lamps through spiritual preparedness. No matter what happens to us or our nation, we can never be too spiritually prepared. I truly believe it is the most important effort we can make. Then we can go forward with faith and confidence in the Lord. We will know that He is with us and if we die, we will be with Him.