When we were planning our loops and decided that we were going to be in New York on 9/11 we made a decision that we had to go to the memorial and pay our respects. All of our children were born after the events in 2001 but have learned some details, though minor, in school. This is an event that we want them to understand completely. We want them to see how it was an attack on our nation and even our way of life. It is important to understand the aspects of the radical way of thinking that drove people to believe it is acceptable to kill thousands of people who are going about their day to day lives.
I was hoping to be at the memorial prior to 8:46 am, when Flight 11 crashed into the north tower, but unfortunately we spent that in the subway trying to make our way through the city. I looked at my phone to see what time it was and quietly reflected about the events as I heard the train clicking along the tracks on our way to the station. As with everyone who is old enough to remember the day, I know exaclty where I was when I first heard and that moment replayed in my head as I thought about what had happened.
My mind continued to wonder about that day and what it must have been like for those that were there. The many people that were on the planes, in the buildings, or even on the streets. For the first responders that went towards the devastation in attempts to save those who needed help. I have seen the images of the billowing clouds of dust and smoke and as I stood with towering buildings on either side I tried my best to imagine what those people went through.
I could only imagine complete chaos and fear. At this point we had reached some blockades on the way into the memorial and we were stopped and told that they had closed it down to have a private memorial service for the families that lost their loved ones. The police officer was very polite and suggested we come back around six that evening and it should be open again.
Not really sure what we were going to do, we took a seat in the park across the street and just spent some time thinking about the day and tried to figure out where we would go until it opened back up. There were so many people around, including those who propose to represent God and spew hate. The signs they held were disappointing and I could only pray that God would let them feel His love and grace. Within minutes of feeling this way a small choir formed directly in front of us and began singing old hymns. The hymns were a great message of love and we sat a while an listened to them.
While listening to the music we decided where we would go. We walked a little bit and stopped at the Federal Hall building. The statue of George Washington outside reminded us that so much of our nation’s history is tied to this city. The kids learned a lot and got another Junior Ranger badge then back to the subway we went. We decided on going to Central Park for lunch, letting the kids run around and enjoy the playground, ice cream, and even seeing John Lennon’s old digs. Then we made our way to view St John the Divine. I have never been in a cathedral as massive as this one. They were doing some repairs outside and had an art exhibit inside, but it was amazing to look past all of that and see the wondrous architecture in place.
Time flies when you aren’t really paying attention to it and we had to make our way back downtown to go see the memorial. When we got back their were hundreds, if not thousands of people waiting to go in. Our timing was perfect and within five minutes we were walking in. The reality began to sink in further as a tent was still set-up and names were being called. My mind went far away from the anger I often feel when thinking of this day. Hearing those names and seeing the family members weep was emotional. Looking at the names engraved on the stone with pictures and flowers brought tears to my eyes.
I no longer saw it primarily as the attack on our nation, but more so as the senseless slaughter of so many innocent people. Real people with real families that now grieved each year as they remembered that their loved ones were taken from them from a group of cowards.
We spent time talking to the kids about these people and why they attacked us. We want them to know that the terrorists religious extremism is not of God in any way and amounts to no more than the stupid signs of hate we had seen on the streets earlier that morning. It was also important for us to tell them about the people and that this was a place to honor the memories of what happened and for them to recognize and remember it for the rest of their lives.
For all the families who lost someone that day we are praying for you all. For those who willingly stepped into harms way to save those in trouble, our sincerest thanks! A friend of mine recently pointed out how our nation was transformed on 9/11. Though the events were dark and hurt us deeply, we stepped out stronger and more united than we had been in a long time. Land of the free and home of the brave!