Saturday, September 10, 2011

Don't Forget

I sat in a city council meeting for something that was important enough to meet first thing in the morning. I don’t remember why we were there. Halfway through, a city official rushed in and turned on the television in the meeting room.

A plane flew into a building. You remember, I’m sure.

Ten years ago, I was a reporter for a small newspaper in Texas—the Marshall News Messenger. On that Tuesday morning of Sept. 11, the rest of the meeting was cancelled and I drove five minutes back to our downtown newspaper office.

My editor threw out assignments to us reporters. Get quotes from city officials. Talk to the police chief about local safety. Find military personnel who may have to deploy. Ask if the schools will be closing. Talk to the man on the street for his thoughts. Find locals who were in New York that day.

In the meantime, the police scanner in the news room squawked out news of a train derailment nearby. The world was ending. No one was safe anywhere. Not even in a small town in Texas.

The train wreck turned out to be a crazy fluke of an accident, with no connections to terrorism. Normally, it would have been first page news in our small town of 25,000. But it was buried in the terror of hijackings and burning buildings and talks of war.

Somewhere in between talking to a Marshall resident who saw the burning buildings and a soldier who thought he would be deploying and learning that our president was landing in Air Force One at the Barksdale Air Force Base (just a half hour drive away from our small town), I talked to my husband. Married just over a year at the time, I longed to be with him.

He had his own story. He was a pilot-in-training at LeTourneau University and a part-time mechanic at the university hangar. He ran out to stop a university plane from taking off after learning that all planes were grounded.

Late into the night, after the paper was finally put to bed and the date we would never forget turned into the next, I drove the half hour ride home, listening to the radio, tears finally flowing.

My husband and I sat, in our first tiny studio apartment together, and watched more news together late into the night. Horrified, angry, confused, afraid. Would our world ever be the same?

Flags flew everywhere the next day, and the ideas began. How to help? How to get to New York? How to raise money? We couldn’t just sit there and do nothing. We were inspired by the stories of heroes. We wanted to changed our lives to matter.

I interviewed and wrote a story about a 10-year-old boy who organized a fundraiser in his school to help the victims. I loved seeing his heart to help. I hated to see that heart broken as he told how he watched people jump out of the top of the burning World Trade Center to their death.

Life did go on, in a world of terror threats and deployments and fear of Islam. Eventually, we found our new normal and stopped watching the news and returned our flags to our drawers.

And soon, my husband graduated from college and we moved to a Muslim country and had kids who weren’t there on that day.

But may we never forget what it feels like to be damaged and to call out to God and to want to drop everything to help those who are hurting and to change our lives to follow heroes.

photo credit, cliff1066

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