9/11–a date that those of us who lived through it will never forget. We recall not only the havoc wreaked by those errant planes, but also precisely what we were doing on that day and how the crisis impacted it.
History has left a number of such tracks on the path of my life. I was a student in Germany at the time the Berlin wall was built. It faced me with the need to decide whether to return home early, as Mom had suggested via long distance telephone, in case we were on the brink of a war. Acute fear was finally faced down through prayer, and I will always be glad that I stayed through that summer.
At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, my beloved Steve was a West Point cadet, and again a war with the Soviet Union seemed a sobering possibility. In fact, there had been talk of graduating his class early so they would be prepared to fight in it. The removal of those missiles was good news to all Americans, but to me it was cause for hallelujahs.
The following year, the principal of the high school where I was teaching announced the somber news of Pres. Kennedy’s assassination. Some of my students were in tears. All I could think of to say to them was how blessed we were to live in a country where this tragedy would be followed by an orderly transfer of power.
On 9/11 I was also in a school, an elementary school this time. As my pupil and I emerged into the library after our lesson, we saw teachers viewing a huge cloud of smoke on the television screen. “It’s the Pentagon,” one of them told me. It took only a moment for the full implication of that to dawn on me. The tennis game scheduled for later that morning ended before it began. All we wanted to do was go home and pray.
When history steps in and leaves these tracks on our lives, it’s still the best response I can think of.