For a few years now when September 11th rolls around, I look up newscasts, photos and stories from that frightening day and try to remember. The reality is that the event hits me far harder now, ten years later, than it did in 2001.
I was almost a freshman in high school. Being home-schooled, my family took their annual vacation in early September after the crowds of school kids had dissipated from our vacation destinations. We were traveling with some close family friends to Montana and Wyoming to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. On the way, we stopped by the ranch of friends' parents in Montana, which is where we were enjoying the big sky country on September 11, 2001. Around 10am, one of the brothers who worked on the cattle ranch rode his 4-wheeler over to the house to tell us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Our hosts had no TV and spotty radio connection so we had very little information beyond that.
A plane crash - however tragic - seemed to my 13-year-old mind to be an average occurrence (not worthy of a frantic visit, tears, and shocked faces - heartless as that may seem). I had no idea what the World Trade Center towers were. I had no idea that terrorists really existed.
That afternoon we got in the car to drive to Yellowstone where my dad tensely demanded silence as he tuned into different radio frequencies trying to find out more. I remember thinking that he was over-reacting. After setting up camp, we sat around the campfire listening to the radio to keep up on what was happening. It was then that we learned about the Pentagon plane and the plane crash in Pennsylvania - and that they were likely all connected. We sat in stunned silence as we heard President Bush's speech to the nation. I watched my dad's friend's face go white as he contacted his work (he is an airplane mechanic) - he had known two of the pilots that went down in the crashes. That was the first time there was a face to the tragedy and I began to feel very solemn and sad - still without really understanding why. I had no frame of reference for what kind of damage had been done and the lives that had been lost. But we all sat around the campfire and prayed for those injured and those in the rescue teams, and the loved ones of those killed.
Over the past ten years, I've gained a much better understanding of the kind of damage that was done on that day. I've read Let's Roll, scoured countless websites with vivid photos and sat in in horror watching videos of that day. On this tenth anniversary, I am better able to grieve with my fellow Americans for the loss we suffered, and to pray for healing and redemption in our country.
We will not forget.
[ps. a read I found helpful: The Gospel at Ground Zero]