Recalling 9/11: Remember to seize each day | Joan Bay Klope

"The attack was intended to break our spirit.

It has utterly failed.

Our hearts are broken, but they continue to beat."

—Rudolph Giuliani

Early Thursday morning I turned on the coffee pot and TV before realizing it was 9/11. “Can you imagine,” I commented to my husband, “we’ve reached the seventh 9/11 already?”

We turned to cable news and began watching the ceremonies in silence. Each 9/11 is sobering. Our 16-year-old son, an elementary school student in 2001, recalls watching the planes hit the World Trade Center Twin Towers. People jumping to their deaths. And learning from a teacher, substituting in his classroom that day, it was her husband’s birthday.

Funny what you remember.

On that Tuesday I began my day by walking along a dimly-lit country road. I had pulled myself out of bed early to take in some fresh air, listen to the birds break the morning’s silence, gaze at the awesome beauty of the early morning sky, and talk quietly about life with my friend Jane. On the other end of our great nation, thousands of Americans were experiencing unimaginable terror.

Fact is I did not learn of their horror until hundreds had already perished. I was hurrying through my morning routine like millions of Americans. I was fixing lunches for my children, grabbing a few hurried bites myself, and reviewing my planner to acquaint myself with the day I believed would unfold. Only then did a TV commentator’s voice, filled with alarm, begin making the most unimaginable observations.

In seconds I hurried in for a closer look, only to be delayed slightly by the phone. Jane’s voice, filled with anguish and disbelief, was urging me to turn on my TV and watch what looked like a made-for-TV movie. Instead it was an unprovoked attack on innocent Americans, on domestic soil.

In an instant it was June 5, 1968. I was in bed, for it was a school night and I was only 9 years old. I knew my mother was watching TV at the other end of the house and when I heard her call out my dad’s name three times, each with greater intensity, I detected something had gone terribly wrong. I recall bolting out of bed, picking up the edges of my nightgown to avoid tripping, and hurrying down the hall.

As I entered the family room and covered my eyes to guard against the glare of the lights, I could make out my mother sitting on the floor directly in front of a small black and white TV. She was sobbing into a tissue, crying out to nobody in particular, “Oh no, not Bobby, too! How will the Kennedys live past another assassination?”

For the first time I witnessed a side of my mother I had never seen before. I saw a woman feeling immense pain and shock, and freely expressing the rawness of her emotion. I saw a woman reacting for a few moments as though her heart might break.

Robert Kennedy’s assassination is seared in my mind. So is Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It was the day I sat on the couch next to my husband and sobbed just liked my mother did 33 years earlier. I cried for the uncertainty I had never experienced as a parent and an American. I cried for the airline passengers who experienced unimaginable terror and for the way their suffering would forever rob their loved ones of the peace they had known. I cried for the immensity of what we were witnessing, the flagrant evil, and how my children will be suspicious of unattended bags wherever they would travel.

I cried out of frustration that evil looked for weaknesses in our counter-intelligence, our diplomacy, and our national airport transport system and found them. Over and over again. And I cried that this would change our family’s enthusiasm for travel and adventure.

I believe it is vitally important to remind ourselves today that the choices of a few radical terrorists do not for a moment reflect the majority of Muslims. There are Muslim women across the globe who are sensitive to our nation’s loses and men counseling their boys that 9/11 was no way to act as a honorable Muslim man.

I pulled out a coffee table book that vividly retells the 9/11 story in dramatic pictures, hung our American flag out front, and lit a candle. I prayed for our nation and our family. Then I reminded myself how important it is to seize each day as if it were our last, embrace our freedoms, and take account of our individual relationships with God.

May God comfort those whose lives are forever altered by the events. May we be assured that the transitory life we lead today will eventually move forward to life eternal once we accept His gift of eternity. And may we express love and faithfulness to those around us.

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