It Caught Me by Surprise

As I write this, it’s the anniversary of 9-11. I had totally forgotten about what day it is. Retirement can do that to you. I got up, turned on the TV, and saw on the news that President Trump was flying to Shanksville—the sight of the Flight 93 Memorial. My first thought was that he should save that trip for the anniversary of 9-11. Then it dawned on me—this IS September 11. It caught me totally by surprise.

To me, this was astonishing in itself because I often think about that day and its implications. Yet, I woke up this morning and never gave it a thought. Still, it didn’t take long for it all to come rushing back to the forefront of my mind.

As I watched a replay of the coverage that day, I went through many of the same emotions—anger, fear, bewilderment, and sadness. I remembered sitting at my desk at work in disbelief as the first tower fell. I remembered leading an evening prayer service on the Thursday of that week that was attended by many I had never seen in our house of worship prior to that day. The death and destruction on 9-11 were too close to home to tuck away into some distant corner of our minds. The only real place to turn was to God.

Until This Year

On the first anniversary of 9-11, my lovely Bride and I made the trek to New York City to participate in the memorial service and pay tribute to those who lost their lives and to the determination of a country to persevere in the wake of such hatred and pain. The event affected us deeply, and now forgetting what day it was simply stunned me. Every year since, as this day approached, my thoughts always drifted to the events of that day—every year, that is, until this year.

During our trip to New York, we sat and had a cup of coffee in a park along a major thorofare on the morning of September 11. All of a sudden, everything stopped. Traffic came to a halt. No horns beeped. Pedestrians halted their steps and silently turned toward the financial district. In that eerie silence, we realized it was 8:46 am—the time the first plane hit the North Tower.

Collective Memory

I watched this year’s ceremony on television and saw a man wearing a familiar t-shirt. The words printed on his shirt thundered in my mind. “Always Remember!” I had forgotten, if only momentarily. I realized that, though it had slipped my mind on this day, I will never forget. I will never forget because we have a collective memory in this country. There will always be those who will remind us.

It’s a day we would certainly like to forget. Yet, like the Holocaust, the Beaches of Normandy, and the blood-letting of Antietam, we choose to remember. Remember it well and thank God for your freedom.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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