It’s hard to believe that infamous day was fourteen years ago. We used to call nine-one-one when there were emergencies. We still do, but now those three numbers have become a byword. All one has to do is utter that nondescript, three numeral password to evoke a torrent of emotions.
For the most part, those emotions lie beneath the surface. If you say 911 to me, I’m not going to fly into a rage, panic, or glare at you like you’re some kind of menacing freak. But underneath it all, I’m a boiling caldron of mixed emotions.
Even as I write this, I’m getting a little tense. I can’t even explain it, really. But like most of you, I remember where I was, whom I was with, and how I felt on that agonizing day. I’ll have to refer to my psychologist buddies to analyze that one.
The silence was deafening…
So many odd and eerie things happened that day and around that event. I live near Dulles Airport. The planes, which were constantly taking off and landing overhead, were suddenly gone. The silence was deafening. A few days later, when I saw my first airplane again, it was almost scary. It was an ominous feeling to have the silence broken.
Earlier this year, there was an event that harkened back to that silence. It was during the riots in Baltimore (which were not at all quiet, of course). Because of the unrest and danger in the situation, no fans were allowed to attend the Orioles game. Everything was so quiet, players could hear the play-by-play announcers up in the booth. They say silence is golden. I say, not always.
If you walk into a large cathedral these days, you can often find that same eerie hush . For the most part, it’s not because everyone there is in reverent silence. It’s because no one is there at all.
In stark contrast, immediately after 911 the buildings we call churches were full. There were services of remembrance, prayer meetings, and candlelight vigils. People got together in places that reminded them of the hope we have in God. The sense of community was on a sudden uptick—for a while. The only quiet was the intentional moment of silence.
Today, there will be many moments of silence observed across our nation. In addition, however, there will be many hushed cathedrals silenced by the absence of their community. That community, which was rediscovered fourteen years ago, seems to have dissipated as quickly as it was formed.
We still have all the theology, doctrine, and tradition we need. What we don’t have is community. Even the so-called churchgoers are strangely absent much of the time. We’ve lost our sense of community and we need to reclaim it. But the only way to do that is to get together—and not just on Sunday mornings.
It’s time to wake up church. The silence is deafening.