Friday, September 08, 2006

Five Years Later

Even now, five years later, I still find myself dwelling on it -- trying to imagine what it felt like the moment they realized they wouldn't be going home.

I remember on 9-11 watching the images of the planes slamming into the World Trade Center, the wreckage of the planes in Waashington in Pennsylvania, and the sound of the towers as they fell in on themselves. I remember the frustration at trying to reach friends who lived in midtown Manhattan to make sure they were alright. And I remember the total, utter silence at the downtown Mobile bar where friends had gathered to watch the President's speech that night -- a bar that at any other time would have been a loud jumble of the sounds of the jukebox, pool tables, and beer bottles.

That whole day, and during the days and weeks that followed, I -- and millions of other people -- watched the events of 9-11 as folks on the outside looking in. But not once in those first hours did I ever try -- I couldn't try -- to see what had happened from the inside looking out. There was something that I knew would tear at me if I tried to put myself in the place of the men and women who knew they weren't going to see their families and friends again.

Even with the fifth anniversary of 9-11 just a few days away, and even with the release in recent months of transcripts and recordings of many off the emergency calls made that day, I still couldn't do -- couldn't make myself think of how I would handle that situation. And then today, while visiting The Questioning Christian, I read a recent column by Peggy Noonan, "I Just Called to Say I Love You."

And suddenly, the feelings that I couldn't and wouldn't comprehend for these few years were there. I saw myself as one of the young fathers and husbands in New York, in Washington, in Pennsylvania -- a father who had kissed his wife and child goodbye thinking he would see them again in a few hours or at the end of the business trip. A father who really loves -- but still, somehow, often takes for granted that I will always get -- the excited hugs from the little girl who yells "Daddy!" as I walk through the door in the afternoon. A husband whose wife is carrying a second child and who has news every day of new kicks and new sensations from the baby inside of her.

I can't help but think that many men and women felt regret that day for taking things for granted in their lives, and finding in their haste to get to their jobs or to the airport that they had missed out on precious moments -- and trying to squeeze a lifetime of love into a few moments of a phone call.

But I also think of the fact that God was with the men and women on those planes, in the Pentagon, in the high floors of the World Trade Center. Yes, I'm one of the ones who sometimes wonders how a loving God could let something like this happen -- but it doesn't mean God isn't there. He was there -- he IS here -- and, even in the midst of a tragedy like September 11, 2001, that should be a comfort to us.

Above all else, we should never hesitate to say the things that are important to us. At the end of her column, Noonan writes, "People are often stronger than they know, bigger, more gallant than they'd guess. And this: We're all lucky to be here today and able to say what deserves saying, and if you say it a lot, it won't make it common and so unheard, but known and absorbed."

There are many tributes to the victims of that day -- memorials, scholarship funds, plaques. I think that one of the greatest tributes we could pay to the nearly 4000 victims of that day -- one of the best things we could do to honor their memory -- is to continue to share and pass on our love in every moment that we are still so fortunate to have in this life, moments that were far too short and fleeting for those we remember five years later.


rdl said...

Nice post!

julieunplugged said...

I want to link to this one. Nice job Matt. Really evoked the memory for me.


Dad said...

"I think that one of the greatest tributes we could pay to the nearly 4000 victims of that day -- one of the best things we could do to honor their memory -- is to continue to share and pass on our love in every moment that we are still so fortunate to have in this life..." I love you, son, today and every day, more than yesterday, and less than tomorrow!

Dave said...

Hi Matt,

I read an essay by Eugene Kennedy titled "The End of Ordinary Time" that he wrote on Sept. 11, 2001. In it he speaks, as you do, of the preciousness of those common, mundane moments of life that we all too seldom fully absorb and appreciate. Your thoughts (which I chose to read for the first time today) reminded me again, as I've been reminded of often these past few days, of just how important and wonderful it is to dwell deeply in the moments we spend with our families and friends. I appreciate that!

SusansPlace said...

Matt, thank you for that heart-warming tribute. I have been trying to make good memories every day, to not let one day pass without letting my family know I love them. I'll keep trying.

Carpe Diem!

seekinghim said...

Beautiful post! Thank you for the reminder of how precious every moment MUST be to us.