On September 11, 2001, I was preparing my entire family to attend a birthday party. My infant son was dressed and strapped into his carseat. My in-laws were visiting and coming a tad later in a separate car. And Ben was waiting 10 minutes away to celebrate being 2. I gathered the gift, my baby, and my loose ends and awkwardly bumbled out to the car. And then I drove my CRV across town to the party. I tried to listen to the radio. To music. But reporters kept breaking in. Because by then, the first tower had been hit by a plane. I had absolutely no idea what I was hearing reported. I couldn’t understand. If they were making themselves clear, I was too foggy to get it. I didn’t know what it was, but I did know something big had happened. One reporter said that in 30 years of reporting the news, this was the worst thing he’d ever seen. What had he seen? I immediately called Todd from my cell phone. He was still at home.
“Turn on the TV,” I said. “Something terrible has happened. Tell me what it is.”
He turned on our TV and watched the 2nd plane hit, the second tower fall, followed by the first one. He watched New York burn. He watched people run screaming. He reported it all to me as I looked in my rearview mirror at the infant legs of my son kicking in his converse sneakers.
When I pulled into the parking lot of the rec room where the party was, I was rattled. My friends were all inside, putting gummy worms into cups of ice cream and oreos. They hadn’t heard the news. Soon it was all we were talking about. Inside that room, it was Oreos and 2 year olds. But when I walked out into the lobby for supplies or the restroom, the news as it unfolded was echoing from a station. Bouncing off the tile walls and floor. Inside was one world. Outside was the other.
Were we at war? Who had done it? What did it mean? I didn’t know. I couldn’t grasp it. I didn’t have time to cry. After all, we were celebrating.
I distinctly remember sitting down next to baby Andrew during that party and looking intently at him. He was still strapped in his carrier, still wearing his converse sneakers. But now I had added a cardboard party hat to his ensemble. He was playing with his own fingers. He smiled at me. He could see himself in the large wall of mirrors next to us. I looked at him and ached. What kind of world would he grow up in? I remember asking myself that question. I didn’t know the answer that day.
I know it now. I know the world he’s growing up in. It’s not the same world I knew when I was his age. He’s only known this world. This new world. A world steeped in a level of brokenness I can’t fathom–can’t really put words to. A world we look at out of focus because we are looking through a veil of tears. A world of Sandy Hooks. San Bernardinos. Orlando night clubs.
A world of hatred and insanity.
I don’t know what to say to my children. I don’t know how to equip them to see what they’re seeing and cope with what may come because I didn’t have to walk through what they have to.
My brain feels soft and tired tonight as I reflect. As I try to come up with an answer. Not to the problem. But to them. To their questions. To their wide-eyed looks of confusion when the news breaks.
To my children. My innocents. The future of America. This is what I want you to know. It’s the best I can do.
Dear sweet ones,
Don’t let the hatred of people cause you to question the love of God. Don’t let the terrible wrongs committed by some blind you to the rights done by so many others. Don’t confuse this world with the world to come. Don’t let the darkness of the world around you hide your view of Jesus. He’s there. Keep looking. Don’t let what you see–what is and what may be— keep you from shining.
You must shine.
Be a beacon. A helper. A light. A weeper. A lover. A comfort. A joy. A friend.
Even in the face of fear, be fearless.
Be an overcomer. Because Jesus overcame.
As long as one light still shines, it will never be truly dark.
God help you–God help us all–to be that one light.