Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Moment

In every life are those events that shake you to your core.  The events that are so monumental that you will never forget where you were when you got the news.  That moment is burned into your soul and cannot be shaken loose.  For better or worse, those moments leave their mark. 

September 11, 2011 was the first such moment of my life.  I was 17, enjoying the first few weeks of my senior year of high school in Dallas, Texas.  That morning, I was in the Peer Ministry office of my high school, on my hands and knees, helping piece together a huge mosaic cross with colorful pieces of cut felt.  Once we had it pieced together, it was going to be hot glued to a blue felt background and become a banner to be hung at our regular school masses. 

We were putting together the pieces when Mr. Neil, who taught me sophomore English and driver's ed, popped his head in to tell us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  I remember taking that news in and instantly dismissing it.  The news was kind of crazy and unbelievable, and Mr. Neil was kind of a character, so the combination of the news and who delivered it meant I didn't quite believe it.  The immediate events that followed unfolded while I spent my morning piecing together that cross, oblivious to what was going on in the world outside. 

The school day continued, though no one spoke of anything else except the shock of the morning.  Even so, all the bad things seemed very far away.  After school, I met my mom at a studio because we were supposed to view and pick out my senior photos that day.  The appointment was cut short because no one could concentrate and we rescheduled.  We went home and sat on the couch and turned on the TV and I saw the images for the first time.  Then it sunk in.  Then the fear came.  The sadness and grief and horror.  The questions and the what does this mean and what's coming next. 

New York City also left its mark on me that day.  The next year, I would go there to start my first year of college.  I would stand on the whirling, never sleeping sidewalks and feel the eeriness of everyone coming to a standstill whenever it seemed like a plane overhead was just a bit too low, even then, a year later, and collectively we would look up, watch, listen until it had safely passed.  Then we would go about our business.  Because fear is okay to some degree, it makes you cautious, but then you keep walking.

When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, I was sitting on the couch in my dorm room before the start of my senior year of college.  As an RA, I was supposed to be downstairs, helping with move-in day, but I could not tear myself away.  My dad lovingly calls me a New Orleans girl because I was born there, as was my dad and all three of my brothers, even though I have no memories of living there.  That day, my connection to that city and to the people there came bubbling up in a way for which I was completely unprepared. 
When my grandmother died on July 31, 2007, I was driving to her house after work and was halfway there when my mom called to tell me she was gone.  I kept driving to her house, with the tears streaming down my face, because I did not know where else to go. 

Those are my moments.  My life-defining, soul-marking moments.  I hear the refrain "never forget" over and over around this time every year.  The thing is, I couldn't even if I wanted to.  These events and these moments are branded on my spirit and have shaped who I am and the world in which I live.  I can instantly put myself back to each of those times and the pain feels fresh.  I wouldn't change that.  These events were too huge to deserve any different. 

My prayer is that we have the grace and courage to carry the weight of our monumental moments, whatever they may be.  That we let them change us for the better.  And that we honor those that were impacted the most by taking better care of each other.  Please, always that.