Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th

A week before the day that changed our lives forever, I was at a horse show in Chester County with my oldest. It was the end of the day when the classes were over and everyone was packing up to go home. The trainer, who still had to load some horses and take them back to the barn, pulled a large cooler from her truck and handed all the adults a Corona to toast the day's successes. It had been a picture-perfect day and watching the sun go down, I leaned back against the rail and in that bucolic setting, quietly reflected that life was good. "We" had won first-place in a large class and picked up some other ribbons as well. Shows were always fun but never so much as when we were winning. The gorgeous weather was icing on the cake.

The following Tuesday, we were treated to yet another glorious day, 12 hours of which I would be spending as a circulating nurse in a busy OR. As the circulator, I had the freedom to leave the room, which I did to interview our next patient. The television was always tuned to CNN in the morning so that the patients who were awaiting induction had something else to think about. I came through the automatic doors just as the second plane struck the WTC. One of the patients immediately demanded that someone get him a phone. His son worked in the building and should have been at work by then. With horror, we realized that these were passenger jets that had crashed and soon it was reported that both jets had departed from Logan Airport. As it turned out, my surgeon's mother was flying out of Logan that morning for Los Angeles. As soon as he finished his case, I told him what was happening and he too started making calls. Luckily my mother and my husband were both home and able to retrieve the kids from school. Shortly, it was decided that all elective surgeries would be cancelled for the rest of the day so as to preserve blood. As the day wore on, it became apparent that there would be no one in need of that blood, and we were sent home early. I walked home numb and like most of America, remained glued to the television.

Out of the diabolical evil that was perpetrated on 3,000 innocent people that day arose much goodness. Democrats embraced Republicans. People forgot their political differences and rallied around the president. And suddenly, it was not only OK to mention God but your patriotism could be called into question if you didn't. It was somewhat amusing to see the local rock station post a "God Bless America" billboard on the Schuylkyll but a welcome sight as well. My, how things have changed.

I was reflecting on some of these things yesterday after hearing the Gospel, where Jesus reminds us that we are called to love those who do not love us. The hardest thing in the world sometimes is to keep one's self from responding in kind to someone who does us wrong. Does it mean not defending ourselves when we're under attack? I don't think so, but I do think we are called to remain who we are even when those around us would destroy us if given the chance. And I'm not only thinking of terrorist attacks. I'm thinking of the kind of attack that always seems to follow a particulary holy time in our lives that can be undone by a cruel person with a few harsh words. It's a struggle sometimes not to throw the graces I've earned right out the window just for the sake of making a point. At times like that, I've learned that I can focus on Christ and stay afloat or, like St. Peter, take my eyes off Him and sink.

I'm not proud of everything this country did in response to September 11th. I believe that when we engage in torture, we lower ourselves to the level of the terrorists, who hold no regard for human life. When we speak ill of people who don't look like us or speak the same language, we are abdicating our call as Christians to love everyone, not just those we agree with or look like or talk like. Following Christ is a life-long journey. We don't always walk the path perfectly, but we are called to try, even in the darkest hours. Remember His words that if we love only those who love us, of what value is it?

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