You listened to part of the transcripts this morning before someone who knows you better than you do told you to stop, before you’d end up in the closet, in a ball of tears.
You’ve never seen New York like this. Eerily silent and dust covered. A city of the walking wounded. You stare into the eyes of strangers for five, ten, forty seconds before either of you realized that in New York City you don’t do that. You avert your eyes, look away, avoid, but not this week. This week you stare. And you nod at the end, sighing in unison. You are both thinking the same thing after all: what just happened?
Every park is filled, every corner is filled, every mind is filled: what just happened?
Fences are filled with Missing Person signs and the homeless aren’t the only ones laying, dazed, on park benches and curbs.
You know things are going to change you, but you don’t know how much, or to what length. You don’t know, for instance, while you watch planes crash into familiar buildings, that in ten years two of your baby brothers will be soldiers and men, stationed in countries torn by war. You don’t know that in ten years every day you will pray for peace, mostly because peace means that they will come home in one piece.
You don’t know that in the weeks to come, you will open the coffee shop every morning at 5am and you will listen to your fellow countrymen wake up to the news, giving their best war-plan strategies while they hand you their dollar-sixtyfive. You don’t know these things. You don’t know that freedom really does cost something, but in your wildest dreams you never imagined it would cost this.
You stumble through a shell-shocked city, one wrapped in yellow caution tape. You try to make sense of what just happened.
You don’t know that everyone you know knows someone who knew someone and you find out years later that you knew someone too. You regret losing touch.
You love history because when you hear about what has happened, it helps make sense of what is happening. But when what is happening is happening in real time, in your life, around you, there is no sense to be made of it.
You just stare at strangers a little longer. You both nod. Maybe you reach out and touch their arm.
What should have made us afraid, for a few weeks there, made us brave.
You’re proud to be an American. You are. You pray for peace. You hate conflict. You hate that your baby brothers wield guns and wear uniforms. But you love your country. You loved it dusty and shell-shocked, and you love it bankrupt and tired. You loved it confused and bewildered, and you love it arrogant and corrupt.
But you love heaven more and you long for it. So you pray only this, but every day: even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
(Originally posted on the ten-year anniversary of September 11.)