Saturday, 11 September 2010

2010 Sept. 11--Remembering

If today's weather had been food, I would have described it as my favourite kind of dish--sweet and savoury, and can't get enough of it.  I just love September and October.  The trees haven't started changing colours yet...plenty of time for that.  

Most Americans can remember exactly where they were 9 years ago today.  Everything about that day was surreal.  I had gone to a local women's clinic for an appointment.  As I sat in the waiting room, a couple of the volunteers were talking about a report they'd heard on the radio.  A few minutes later a television was turned on and we all witnessed the sight of the 2nd airplane crashing into the North Tower. 

Had the attack been on 1st April it would have been easy to imagine that the media was creating a very black and ugly hoax--showing some sort of horror film.  But it wasn't an April Fool's joke.  The events were lethally serious, genuinely horrifying.  No one could get his/her head around the crashes and the drama;  in truth no one wanted to believe it was true. 
My thoughts in those first few moments were a bit a-typical to many of my peers.  "Finally, American is experiencing what has been happening in Northern Ireland and other parts of the world for years."  Perhaps that sounds hard-hearted.  It isn't meant to be.  It is simply that this was only the 2nd time in America's history that our country had been the object of a premeditated but unexpected attack.  Other countries, especially in the Middle East, have endured the unsettling and traumatic loss of property , life and livelihood for generations.  Many Americans behaved as though the United States of America should be immune to bullying aggression and terrorism.  And yet, why should the USA be exempt from attack?   

In 1998 I participated in the Reconciliation Walk around the borders of Northern Ireland.  The Irish/British conflict goes back to the 1600's--to the time of William of Orange of Holland and King James II.  Because William was Protestant and James II was Catholic, the problems were both political and religious.  The "troubles" in Northern Ireland had erupted again in the 1970's with car bombs, petrol bombs, knee-capping, shootings and riots.  But in 1998 a prayer initiative began with the vision of one man who shared it with other Christians.  The Reconciliation Walk lasted for several weeks and people from around the world came to walk and pray.  

I was part of a team from YWAM Scotland who joined this group of intercessors. Our small team of seven spent a week in Strabane, Northern Ireland learning about Irish history and praying for peace.  Our small team was joined by a large group with whom we walked from Strabane, County Tyrone to Belcoo, County Fermanagh.  That trek took us through Omagh.  We spent two days there, and I knew I wanted to see it again.  

A friend and I took a week to visit Dublin and the surrounding area the week following the prayer walk.  I can still remember standing in a tiny local museum when the report came over the radio that a car bomb has exploded in Omagh.  My knees went weak as my mind raced through the new friends I had made there.  Did I know anyone who had been hurt, killed?  Immediately grief filled my heart.  My mind questioned--"What about all of our prayers?"  Upon my return to Scotland, I took the time to write to all the families who had hosted us.  I have a good friend, with whom I still keep in touch, who lives in Omagh today.  

So on 11 September 2001, three years after the Omagh bomb, I felt that America was joining the rest of the world in experiencing events that are impossible to comprehend, the shock and numbness that goes with what happens when the unthinkable happens.  

The only way I could connect emotionally with the events in New York was to relate it in some way to Northern Ireland--where my heart was--and Omagh.  Using the internet, I went to to look up the report.  There I read the story of an Irish Architect who had escaped from the North Tower prior to it being hit.  He subsequently learned that his sister and niece had been in the plane that had crashed into the building where he had worked.  My heart broke for him and his family, for the senselessness of it.  And that is how NY Twin Towers became personal to me.

The other thought I had was that of my parents generation.  This must be how it felt when Americans on the mainland turned on their radios for the news at noon and heard that Pearl Harbour had been attacked on 7 December 1941.  My mother remembers hearing about it when her father turned on the wireless while they ate Sunday dinner.  The difference was that we had visual images to go with the news reports.  

Two generations who were suddenly asking:  "Why?  What now?  What is the government going to do?"  On both occasions the result was " to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve "; the statement supposedly made by Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.  As we all know, in both cases, America went to war.  

Still, September is a happy month for me;  three of my best friends were born in September; my anniversary for my first trip to England (1983) is in September and I became a British Citizen in September.  I guess one day for sadness isn't too much.  Remembering the bad helps me to truly appreciate the good.       

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