I just got on my Facebook page and noticed all the reminders of what happened to our world eleven years ago. September 11. The day the twin towers fell. The day we will always remember. The day we will “never forget.” The day we must “never forget.” In the midst of all the patriotic comments, and photos that remind us of that fateful day, I saw one comment that truly peaked my attention. A dear friend of mine wrote: “to ‘never forget’ is not enough.” This got me thinking. What must we never forget? Is “never forgetting” really enough?
Eleven years ago, I was a “young” mother living in the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia and The Big Apple the “day we will never forget” happened. Busy with the day-to-day of a family of four young sons, with an Air Force pilot-husband, focusing on getting the boys off to another day of school, feeding the baby, cleaning up the morning dishes, having that last relaxing cup of coffee with my hubby (he was on one of those rare days of duty-rest after a long trip) before really getting down to the busy-ness of daily life.
The TV was off (it was actually rarely on in those days–who had time for TV with four young sons?) and life was crazy-busy, crazy-fun…and crazy-innocent. I will never forget when my father-in-law called from Georgia to see if we had heard that a plane had crashed into the twin towers in New York City. We honestly thought he was joking–yes, he is a prankster, but this was not much of a joke even if hadn’t been true–but our minds honestly couldn’t quite wrap around the reality that something so horrendous could be true.
I will never forget that as the events unfolded throughout the day–the day that began with the normal gyrations of innocent family chaos–life was rapidly turning into a spinning cyclone of nightmare proportions, a whirling dervish of confusion and terror and constant praying and media-viewing to make sure that our own personal piece of sky wasn’t falling.
I will never forget after the phone call we went to the TV, and as the screen came on, they were showing the scenes that would become forever etched into my mind. The scenes that I will never forget, can never forget. The scenes of tragedy and surreal nightmares that changed us, changed our country…we thought, forever. Because we would never forget.
Every time I see a photo or a video-replay of that shocking day, my mind instantly carries me back to that moment when I first realized, with spine-tingling horror, that there really are real, live madmen in this world. There really are people who hate enough to kill the innocent. There really are people who choose not to see or care that those different from themselves have purpose and deserve life.
I can never forget the fears, the tears, the confusion, the pain, the overwhelming shock of that day. I can never forget–as I heard that the second tower was attacked, and then after another jet-made-bomb had crashed into the Pentagon, and still another in a Pennsylvania field–I felt as if I were in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle or something. The Twilight Zone had come to life, and my beautiful, innocent family was in the very center of it all.
If you’ve never noticed, New Jersey sits smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania, New York, and the greater DC area. We had friends and neighbors who commuted to Philadelphia, New York City, AND the DC area every week for work and play. What was even more frightening–for us personally, during the first few hours of that tragic day–my brother-in-law had left our home just a little earlier that morning to drive into New York City for a business meeting in Manhattan! For a while we couldn’t reach him by cell phone, and we had no idea if he had actually made it into the city or was miraculously still out of harm’s way. Had he not lost his keys and spent an extra hour searching for them, he would more than likely have been in the middle of Manhattan as the planes crashed. Thankfully, his lost keys saved his life, but also changed his life as he witnessed the smoke and flames from across the bridge and heard the news of what had happened. I will never forget; I can never forget.
However, I also will never forget the prayers and the phone calls to and from loved ones to make sure all were okay and out of harm’s way. I will never forget the hugs from semi-strangers as they discovered those around them had been left untouched, or the touches of comfort to those whose lives had been changed forever. I will never forget the prayer vigils throughout our country that night, and in the nights and weeks to come–people of all different walks of life, coming together to pray for God’s restoring peace and for His healing hand to guide us in the days and weeks ahead.
I remember watching on the news, and hearing my friends and neighbors discuss how people in the city were coming together to help one another clean up the devastation; restoring balance while still trying to make sense of the chaos. The uniting of different minds, different races, different cultures all across the world into a unified force for the benefit of all around them. Charities and churches raising funds to help with the clean up, help with the day-to-day needs of families that had lost loved ones and were too busy searching to focus on such trivial things as food and shelter for themselves. Neighborhoods rallying around neighbors who had lost wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons; feeding them, caring for them, praying with them, loving them and holding them while they grieved.
Every year there is a September 11. Every year, whether I want to be or not, I am forever reminded, I cannot ever forget, the evil that resides in this world. It doesn’t have a face, or a name, or a religion, or a country. It is simply known as hate. And if we allow it, it will come and reside within…us. Hate is equal opportunity in every sense of the word. It has no cultural boundaries and shows no favoritism, and it will run rampant, if we just give it a little wiggle room in our hearts and minds. The insidious evil of hate is a destructive force, but I guess that I am way too much of a goodie-two-shoes to want to focus on the reality of its existence very much. But every September 11, it seems that I must never forget.
But being the goodie-two-shoes that I am, I also allow my mind to focus on the polar opposite of this evil. The antithesis of evil is good, and the good is called love. True love is also equal opportunity–without boundaries, cultural distinctions, favoritism, or limits. True love knows how to look beyond the pain and fear, and find forgiveness to move on. The well of true love will never run dry unless we choose to let it. Unless we choose to forget to love, and remember instead to hate.
I may be a goodie-two-shoes, but I am not naive. Yes, I know that evil is lurking around the next corner waiting to strike again. Yes, I know that the evildoers must be punished. As individuals, we should not be concerned with punishing the evil in our midst. That is the job of governments and militaries and courts. Their job, their God-given task, is to provide protection and justice for their citizens and the punishment of those who do wrong. It is not the individual’s job to judge and punish. It is also not our job to hide in fear thinking that those who are different from us, or unknown to us could be waiting for a chance to strike. It is our job to love, to heal, to care for, to show God’s compassion and forgiveness to the other individuals around us.
If we choose to “never forget” but also choose to “do nothing,” then the remembering is for nothing. The lives that were lost, the innocence we lost as a country will be for nothing. Hate will have won. If we choose to never forget, but choose also to live in fear and hate of the ones who so robbed us of our carefree innocence (and the others who might in the future), then we have become no better than they–because fear grows to hate; and hate grows. It grows quietly, behind the scenes where it can’t be seen growing until it becomes so big and powerful that it can no longer be controlled or contained. Then all around there is nothing but fear and anger and hate. And hate will have won.
Love is a difficult path, and it often can lead to pain: having your feelings hurt; your hand slapped when you try to hug and help; your good intentions shunned; and yes, sometimes you will feel real pain and suffering, because the love is not only not accepted, but you are actually hated for it. Despite the cost, however, love will win. Because love also grows quietly in background where you can’t really see it or feel it. It grows and it spreads and it gradually fills the hearts of those you share it with, ever so slowly pushing hate aside. Love is the greater force; love will win–if we choose to let it.
So today, as I remember, as I am forced to “never forget,” I choose to reenforce the walls of my home and my heart with the one thing that will protect them both from the dangers that prevail. I choose to love–without boundaries, distinctions or limits. I choose to let go of anger, fear, and hate, and love like crazy, love like there’s no tomorrow. Because in the end, love is the only thing I never want to forget. I choose to remember–love. For your life, it’s your choice. If you choose to never forget love then that will be enough. Because True Love is always enough.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
1 Corinthians 13:3-7
1 Peter 4:7-11
2 Corinthians 5:11-14