Fifteen years ago today, I was home with my three-year-old son while my two older children were attending school around the corner from our home. My husband was away on business. Not being one to have the television news on during the day, I was unaware of the terrible events that had just begun to unfold in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
The phone rang, and it was a friend from L.A. who wanted to know if I was aware of what was happening.
“Turn on the TV,” she gravely said. And I did.
While my young son played with dinosaurs on our family room floor, I watched as first one, then another giant airliner crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I watched people fleeing the scene, ghosts covered in soot and terror. I saw flames leaping out of the towers, and when the news media started showing people plunging out of the windows to their deaths , I had to turn it off.
That week, my son turned four. My husband struggled to get home from across the country, as did countless other Americans trapped by a shutdown of the nation’s airports. My older children asked me questions I couldn’t really answer about why people would do such a horrible thing. I learned the name Osama bin Laden, a name that will be forever etched into the public mind, a synonym for evil.
Fifteen years and the protracted war on terror seems unending and ever more dire. The tactics of terror have become ever more medieval. And our fears have not necessarily brought out the best in us. The U.S. involved itself in a pointless and unsuccessful incursion into Iraq, with destabilizing results that have given rise to more terror. Across the world, there is a growing anti-Muslim sentiment that has helped spawn the politics of hate.
Fifteen years, and loved ones still mourn their beloved dead. For them, this dark day is a prelude to unending grief.
Yet on that same dark day, people displayed remarkable heroism. First responders rushed into the towers to try to save people, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. And on United flight 93, brave souls attacked the hijackers of their plane and crash landed it on a field in Pennsylvania before it could slam into the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
That Sunday, our church was overflowing with attendees. I remember trying to sing the beautiful hymn “Be Not Afraid” through my tears. Across the country, people turned to their faith – and to each other – to help see them through the darkness. Fifteen years later – another Sunday – I pray for all those lost in the attacks of 9/11, for their families and friends, and for our country. May we always stand for, and in, the light.