Seven years later

Where were you? 

I was in a classroom, watching someone’s videotaped sermon as part of my residency in Clinical Pastoral Education.  Suddenly Jessie, our overall supervisor, gently entered the room.  He told us to turn off the tape and turn on the TV coverage. 

Emotions flowed freely as we student clergy watched.  Today, seven years later, we have learned to live in the afterworld of that day.  No one can fly anywhere without experiencing all the changes of seven years, now simply routine: longer airport lines, no more liquids or gels without bagging them,  removing shoes, constant recordings about orange alerts, additional anxieties.

Barbara Crafton, an Episcopal priest whow has a great gift with words, communicates through her e-mailed blog called The Almost Daily eMo from Geranium Farm.  Today, she sends the wonderful reflection below of her sense of September 11th, seven years out. 

LIVING MEMORY

It’s darker and quieter at 6:00 in the morning here in Florence than it is in New York, for a few more minutes, anyway, before the buses begin their runs. Hotter, too: we have another few weeks of summer heat, it seems, before the air turns cooler. At home, though, this is the glory season: bright sun, blue sky, temperatures that don’t wilt your spirits or your shirt even before the day begins. I can see them now, hurrying to the trains, stopping at the newsstands, waiting for the bus.

No one here remembers what day it is. And why should they? It’s been seven years since the World Trade Center collapse, and it didn’t happen here. The disaster of Florence’s living memory is the flooding of the Arno, 42 years ago. You can see markers, here and there throughout the city, that show how high the water got. You can see the washed-away bottoms of the outdoor frescoes on the corners of buildings. Our older parishioners remember it well, and all have a story they will tell you if you ask: where they were, what they did, what was lost. Cars, trees, mattresses, pieces of wood were swept along in the powerful current until they reached the low-lying Ponte Vecchio, where they stopped, lodging there and forming a dam. The river surged up over its banks and through the narrow streets. The world, immediately aware of what was lost, came to help: scientists, students, everyone — it was surely the largest art restoration effort the world has ever seen.

Living memory — it comes to an end. The last passenger on the Titanic died last year, I think, and the next-to-last veteran of World War I this year. The veterans of the Second World War are all in their 80s now — maybe there are a few in their late 70s, men who lied about their age back then. But not for long. Everything takes its place in the past. We can’t hold onto any of it.

We should tell people what we saw. What we thought. Where we were and what we did. Last night was the first of St James’ Wednesday night dinners for college students; over dessert, Q talked about elections he remembered, going back to 1940. He was a child then: he had been given a little printing press, and turned out flyers for Wendell Wilkie’s presidential campaign: WENDELL WILKIE WON’T LET US DOWN! HE HAS A HATRED OF PERSECUTION INHERITED FROM HIS ANCESTORS!

That’s so cute, I tell him. How big was the printing press?

He shows me with his hands. It was about the size of a laptop computer. That was the beginning of my journalistic career, he says.

People forget. People change — I have a feeling that Q would not be a Wilkie man if that election were held today. But history has happened, and its events were real. Only human beings record them; the animals don’t bother. It doesn’t matter much to the natural world of which they are a part, not over time. But it matters to us.

Seven years later: sometimes I still cannot believe that 9/11 happened. That all those people went off to work, on a day like today, and never returned. I still cannot believe that they felt the terror I know they felt. I still can’t believe we did the things we did in the weeks and months that followed. Sometimes I still think that the towers will be there when I return.

Now, what happened to that book? an old lady here in Florence asks herself, scanning her bookshelf for a volume given her by her father. Oh, of course. She lost it in the flood.

Silly me, she thinks.

Readers, you can subscribe to Barbara’s “almost daily” reflections by sending an e-mail to bccrafton@geraniumfarm.org.  Her website is www.geraniumfarm.org

Peace, fathermom

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2 thoughts on “Seven years later

  1. Thank you for the reflection, Father Tom. It seems very fitting to remember everything that happened on 9/11. I was in school, and we had to sneak by the hall monitors to try to find a classroom with CNN on. We were locked in a building with no idea of what was happening around us.

    I know All Saints’ thoughts and prayers are with all the people we’ve lost.

  2. I was working overtime covering the southside of Dulles Airport on this day. I was a K-9 Officer (Bomb Dog) and had just left the kennels after checking on my dog to head back to my beat. One of my fellow K-9 Officers came driving up in her cruiser and asked if I had seen the news. We both went inside and turned on the TV to watch the second plane hit the World Trade Center, at which point we both new that this was no accident. I went back inside and put my dog in the car because I knew we were going to be needed over the next 24 hrs but I could never have guessed how much!

    Before the end of that day I had listened to radio calls of a plane flying low near National Airport and the call for assistance as a plane had gone down near the Pentagon. I had watched as planes were escorted to the ground by F16’s. I helped to clear both Airports of all passengers and then started the process of making sure every plane on the ground was clear of any explosive devices. I watched as people panicked in the terminals when a Jewish man in his prayer shawl started praying for those who had lost their lives.

    Many of my friends called me that day and said a prayer for my fellow Officers and First Responders but I only got messages as the phones were overloaded. I said a prayer for my fellow Officers and Firemen that were lost that day and for all of the innocent civilians also. I felt helpless for a moment, realizing that I had most likely walked right past the Four Terrorists that boarded flight 77 in the terminal. I felt joy when I finally made it home and was able to hold my family, knowing they were safe.

    We must never forget this day, as we must never forget days such as Dec 7, 1941 when our Nation was attacked by the Japanese or when we get hit by a Catastrophic event such as hurricane Katrina. We must never forget days when we were able to change a tire for someone or help a mother find her child. There is no task or event, big or small, that doesn’t effect us all in some way that we shouldn’t remember that helps build our morale fiber even stronger.

    Make sure that when you see a Law Enforcement Officer, Firefighter, First Responder, Airman, Soldier, Marine, Sailor or any other person in Uniform that you thank them! Thank them every day, not only on days like tomorrow when we are especially thankful for their service, but every time you see one. I for one am proud of my service to my country both as a retired Law Enforcement Officer and as a Soldier! It makes me proud every time someone thanks me for what I have done!

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