What Formed You – 9/11

I still remember my dad knocking on my bedroom door that morning. I mumbled back that I was sleeping in – not running late. But he persisted in knocking and I heard the words “planes” and “Twin Towers”.  In my sleepiness, I wondered how two planes could fly into these buildings, when it dawned on me. “This isn’t an accident. Someone intentionally flew these planes into the building.” I got up and joined my family at the television. I still cannot quite name all that I felt that day as I watched replays of the planes crashing into the towers, the subsequent collapse of those buildings, and the aftermath of this disaster.

At night, I tried to sleep, but a deep fear settled over me. The eerie quiet of a sky void of airplanes and helicopters was disturbing. I never realized how safe I had felt, living in the United States, until that illusion was shattered. For the first time, war and attack became a reality in my world (unaware at the time that for many, war is part of their daily existence). And I knew it the moment it happened. I knew that my naive sense of security in my government’s ability to protect me from all and any danger was gone. It went down with the towers.

I was twenty when 9/11 happened. So, I was old enough to remember a world before the attack, but also was young enough to have this experience shape me in unique ways. Early adulthood is a time when we figure out who we are and what we believe about our world. My view of safety changed with 9/11. It didn’t make me paranoid, but it brought me to a place where I discovered that my hope of safety couldn’t be contained by any human or group or political party. There are things that can be done to help create safe spaces, but as humans we cannot perfectly protect those we love and care for. It clarified for me that the truest, deepest sense of security is found solely in God. It also changed how I viewed my country. Up till then, I saw us as an impenetrable force. I couldn’t understand why any person would want to attack us. In the years since, I have learned more about the nuances of global politics and what messy relationships the US has with other countries (not to excuse the 9/11 attacks in any way).

It’s odd how the events that profoundly form us, can be some of the most painful and horrible experiences we live through.

I wonder if the invitation from God is to sit in the tension – the tension between the pain we experience in life, and the ways in which he loves us and grows us through these times. One doesn’t cancel out the other. The growth will never make the offense any less horrible.

Honestly, I don’t know how to end this post, so, I’ll leave it to poet/wordsmith/creative genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose words today so eloquently express my heart:

Beautiful night.
Take time to think on what you’ve lost.
Take stock of what stays with you.
Be grateful for all of it.
Keep going.

This is a start of a series I’m doing on the events that shape who we are. This morning I was thinking about the ways I was shaped by 9/11 (the post above being written out of those thoughts). Later, I found myself wondering what are the events that formed and shaped you. If any of us look back on our lives, we can pinpoint moments that changed us profoundly. Sometimes they are dramatic moments, and other times, they are quiet shifts that have significant impact on our lives. So, this is an invitation. I’d love to hear your story and I’d love to post them. I’m looking for short thoughts on an event in life that significantly impacted and changed you. I’m open to written pieces, as well as audio or video recordings, or any creative format that communicates this idea. Use the form below to submit an idea.

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