Changed, Changed Utterly
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was being lazy and overslept. I called work (the office was not open yet) and left a message saying I was late because I forgot to tell them I had a dentist appointment. Yes, I lied - a lie that, given the real tragedy of the events of the day, has shamed me ever since.
About 8:00 a.m. central time, just before heading to the bus stop to catch the bus downtown, I had a few minutes so I turned on my computer. I did not have a fast connection back in 2001, but it was not THIS slow. My homepage was the CNN website and I watched the screen on my CRT load SLOWLY. So, slowly that the page never fully loaded more than enough for me to see a headline appear that said something like: Airplane hits World Trade Center in New York.
I thought someone hacked the CNN website which would explain why the site was so slow because there is no way it could be true. I decided to turn the TV on for confirmation.
I don't remember which morning show I turned on. I just remember turning it on and the north tower had massive clouds of black smoke and a sea of white paper swirling around it. "My God, it's true"
I was watching live when the other plane appeared to go almost all the way thru the south tower.
I was still watching live when first one tower and then the other collapsed. I remember Mayor Giuliani walking the streets heading toward the towers. I remember his news conference where he said the south tip of Manhatten was completely closed off. I remember wondering where Air Force One was. Where was the President? It seemed once he left that school, no one knew where he was. The President being in hiding from a threat was not a sign of reassurance.
I remember thinking as the towers collapsed, no way will anyone live in those towers.
I remember when the first rumblings of another plane crashing in a farm field in Pennsylvania and how that plane may have been headed for the Capitol building. I remember hearing how a plane hit the Pentagon. It appeared no one was safe anywhere.
I remember not being able to stand it anymore and I went outside and dug out two big shrubs from my front garden bed (I had just moved into my current home in St. Paul in the Spring of 2001) as my transistor radio carried the news from Minnesota Public Radio - which was only the news from New York and Washington and Pennyslvania. I remember my neighbors coming home from work (offices closed all over the city - including mine so I never went in that day which I was happy not to do as I worked in a tower downtown) and no one spoke; no one looked at anyone; no one said a word.
I remember hearing how the hospitals in New York were gearing up to be overrun with injured. I remember hearing the even worse news: hardly anyone showed up to be treated. The hospitals were not full. The hospitals were not overrun.
I did not see people jumping from the towers. That footage came later - the Internet was full of it and still is. However, I will never forget an image that I saw only once anywhere before I think the networks destroyed or permanently pulled the footage - a bulldozer moving thru the wreckage and the scoop coming up with a bunch of debris and a woman's nyloned legs with her shoes still on sticking out of the scoop.
Other areas of the world deal with terrorism every day but this was the moment the United States joined the club.
There are other moments the U.S. was attacked - Pearl Harbor comes to mind. But, I remember my paternal Grandmother, who lived on an Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota in December 1941 and was working on child #3 of 8, telling me that she had as much chance of ever seeing Hawaii as she did ever making a million dollars in her life and it seemed so far away and unreal. She did not even hear about the attack until the next morning when she went to the store and somebody who had a wireless was talking about it. They had no TV, they had no radio, no phone, they didn't even have electricity or running water in the house.
Today, we get to watch terror unfold in real time. Is this progress?
In 1941 pretty much everyone went to Church every Sunday anyway so I'm sure the next Sunday after the attacks were not really any fuller than any given Sunday (which then had nothing to do with football on TV)
After September 11, 2001, churches were PACKED for several weeks. There was even a prayer service in the IDS Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis. I skipped it and went to the prayer service at St. Olaf which was packed.
Now, it's not so much "where were you?" on 9/11? Now, it's where are you? The sudden love, zeal and clinging to Our Lord for strength and comfort didn't last long did it?
The Lord has not changed. He has not left. We have.