I — like you — remember September 11th, 2001. I was a senior in college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. I was walking across campus from an early class back to my dorm and I overheard something about a plane hitting a building in New York and thought it sounded weird at the time.
It wasn’t until I got back to the suite that I shared with five other girls that I realized the enormity of it all. There was no denying the heaviness.
A month before, I had flown back from Europe to Nashville after a six-week study abroad program in London. That would be the last time I skipped over customs when entering Germany. (But that’s another story for another day.)
I spent all day watching the video footage on the news in my dorm room. All day. Over and over again. I don’t know if I was trying to convince myself it was real or hoping it would change.
It seemed like life should have paused that day, but somehow, it kept going. I didn’t know anyone in New York personally at the time (although in some ways, to be American is to be personally affected), but I had college friends from New York. My friend Dave’s dad worked in the World Trade Center, but he wasn’t there that day.
I’ll never forget the fear and uncertainty I felt that day — the knot in the pit of my stomach. Compared to so many others around the world, our country has been blessed with a peaceful way of life. We’ve experienced relatively few horrors like 9/11.
It’s hard to remember the horror, so why should we? I’ve been asking myself this question today.
The last year-ish of my life has been full of many griefs — little and large. Is there room for any more? Well, unfortunately, I can’t always control which griefs present themselves to me if I want to live life fully.
My perspective now is different than in 2001. I wanted the guilty parties held responsible just like anyone else.
Fast forward to 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed. I happened to be in India at that time.
When I was eating with American friends at the Hard Rock Cafe that night, the waiter said, “Which country, madam? America? You must be happy today. Osama bin Laden has been deleted from the world.”
I felt lots of things when I heard he was killed, but I’m not sure “happy” would be the word I would use to describe my emotions. I didn’t blame the waiter for saying that after seeing the news images from that day. But it was different for me after living overseas.
I met this guy — an American living in Pakistan when Osama bin Laden was killed — and heard his story.
I had grown to love the people of South Asia. In fact, I moved to India because I wanted to share what I’ve learned to be true about God with people who don’t have a relationship with him. To share Jesus with people like Osama bin Laden. To do that, I have to believe that even the most evil, broken heart can be changed.
But, death is so final.
So, when I think about September 11th, I feel grief for our country. I feel very American.
But I also feel grief for the people responsible for such evil. And, I long for more than just revenge, retaliation. I long for real change. Heart change.