There are very few moments in my life that have affected me as deeply and personally as the tragedies that occurred on September 11, 2001, or changed my life so profoundly. The memories of that day are haunting: reminders of grief and pain, but also ones of fervent optimism. In the face of fear, as ideals that had long been seen as impenetrable were brought to their knees, hope remained. It was fragile, but it helped many to have the courage and wisdom to turn their eyes, not on the horror around them, but on that which gave them the faith to continue.
Our world has long been under assault by those who devalue the life and value of human beings, both man and woman. All too often, we – as part of humanity – feel the strain and pull, especially during times of suffering. I have found times in my own life where I have asked the question, “Where is my God? Where is my salvation and rescue?” It has been in the quiet of my own thoughts, in the ache of my own heart, but I know from the testimonials of others that I am not alone. Our world is filled with people looking for something that can reaffirm their faith – in God, in a higher power, in humanity – and restore the value of their life and existence in their minds and hearts.
Wherever we may be in our individuals lives, there are times when we are challenged and struggle. Those trials are different for each of us, yet common to us all. They are a part of this mortal world and it is not uncommon to lose our hope and faith in the face of paths unclear, of events so tragic that we are consumed by fear and pain. Feelings of isolation – even abandonment – can creep into our lives and worry that we walk this life alone causes fear to replace what has given us strength.
I am not a religious leader, an authority on theology or expert in philosophy. I am a merely a person – with wants, needs, desires, emotions and longs for something to hold onto in times that hope is tested. I am a person of faith. My faith rests in God. You may not share that faith, but I hope that my message is of worth in helping you in some small way.
On September 11, 2001, my very core was shaken. Deeply and vigorously. I, like so many, watched in horror and with righteous indignation at the depth of evil being illustrated and was unable to look away. I felt real terror. It gripped me; held me by the shoulders and rattled me.
Fifteen years later, I can not erase the images from my mind or the pain from my soul. I am racked with emotion and cannot prevent the tears from filling my eyes as I watch memorial videos, see photographs of people in agony reaching out to others for comfort and assistance. I can say, however, that fifteen years after an event that changed humanity profoundly, I was able to carry on because I was able to tap into a source of strength – hope and faith in a better world – through the love, patience and guidance of God in my life. I don’t want to forget the events of that day because they have helped me to refocus, in times of trial and despair, on something much greater than myself.
Focus on the concrete, the tangible, that which I can hold and explain, did not give me what I needed. Life is so often full of messages that it is what we have – external, material items – that define us and make us who we are. Unfortunately, when the concrete crumbles, the structures are no longer tangible, the only thing to hold is rubble and there is no explanation, there is little left to pin hope to, little left to use to define ourselves. What do we do when the towers tumble? What do we do when life, as we knew it, is in pieces? For me, I found the answer in what can only be hoped for, is intangible and unseen: faith.
I turned to prayer and I turned to the word of God (scripture). “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philip. 4:7). It helped remind me that hope and faith were accessible to me; that I’d never truly be alone even if I did not understand life or what happens to and around me. That, in my times of sorrow and heartache, my heart and mind could find peace through my Savior and my God.
On this Sunday, the 15th anniversary of an earthly tragedy, I reach out to you – to others – with a message of love. May you find the peace you seek. May your memories of horrors past be less painful. May you see that there is hope in the rubble of tragedy. And, may you find the faith to keep moving forward, opening your heart to the true value of your own life and the lives of others.
Let us never forget – but let us also remember what can be and not just what was.