I, like anyone over the age of 25 in the United States, remember where I was on September 11, 2001. My daughter was four-months-old, and we were living on the campus of Andover Newton Theological School. I watched the events unfold live on Good Morning America.
As horrific as that day was, we could never have imagined the fallout. The trauma of those who survived the attack and that of those who lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and children. The number of lives that would be lost in the wars waged in the aftermath. The health problems that continue to plague the first responders–and the fight that has had to be waged by comedians to make sure they get the benefits they deserve. The on-going anti-Muslim sentiment despite the fact that, in the years since the attack, far more Americans have died at the hands of armed, white, Christians than brown Islamist extremists.
September the 11 was my brother-in-law’s wedding anniversary…and this was the first one to hit since the divorce. I was making a mental note to remind my husband to give his brother a call, when Charlie Gibson announced that there was a fire at the top of one of the twin towers. While cameras were on that fire, I watched (along with the rest of the world) as the second plane crashed into the other tower. I will never forget the look on Charlie’s face when it happened.
America is often defined in pre- and post-9/11 terms. The high school class of 2019 was the last class of kids who were alive before the towers went down. Most of the senior class of 2020 hadn’t yet been born. That’s how long (and how not-so-long) ago it has been since our world changed forever.
On this day 18 years ago, up on the hill where Andover Newton lived at that time, students gathered in the middle of the campus on the quad and passed my very social four-month-old around. Even though it felt like nothing would ever be okay again, there was comfort and hope in holding this smiling baby who had no idea of the world-changing event that was unfolding around her.
That baby is now an enthusiastic college freshman who is convinced (and almost evangelical in her belief) of the power of stories told on stage to change the world–one audience at a time.
The people who gathered that day on the quad of Andover Newton have scattered and are doing amazing ministry and life-changing work all around our country. They continue to bear witness to people in the best of times and in the worst of times that God is right there with us through it all.
For me, 9/11 is not only a time to remember those who were lost, but that, even when the world seems at its worst, there is hope to be had, good to be done and love to be shared.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.