Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2008 - Moment of Silence

A few moments ago, while I was getting dressed, I tuned the TV to the news, as I often do in the morning. I was greeted by silence. Dead air.

The screen showed a somber crowd of people at a public gathering in New York City: politicans behind podiums, rank upon rank of white-gloved police officers and firefighters.

Of course, I said to myself. It’s 9/11, the seventh anniversary. I was thinking of it just yesterday, but this morning I arose without giving a thought to this occasion – to the day, as Mayor Bloomberg just reminded the television audience, “our world was broken.” It was the day our lives changed forever.

I sat on the bed in silence, joining – for that single minute – all the others in so many places who are putting aside everything else in their busy lives to remember. It’s remarkable how long a minute can feel, when you’re doing nothing to fill it.

Memories diminish with time. The day the planes were cast down from the sky, I was scrambling to put together a hasty worship service, fashioning a place of refuge for the hordes who were turning to the church during that dread season of loss. One year afterwards, we were preparing for a more carefully-planned service, one that was also well-attended. Two years out, we were ringing the church bell and opening the doors for those who wished to pray. Seven years later, I confess, I had to be reminded by the television of what day it is.

It’s the way of the world. The more time intervenes, the dimmer becomes the recollection. Who remembers Armistice Day anymore, which has long since morphed into Veterans Day? Who pays more than a moment’s notice to Veterans Day, other than those who have personally lost loved ones, for whom the loss still aches?

An article on cancer in the current Newsweek puts the statistics of life and death into perspective. The passenger load of three jumbo jets a day, every day, 365 days a year: that’s how many Americans die of cancer. It’s 9/11 every day, for at least some people in our country. Our government will spend billions on homeland security to prevent another terrorist attack from happening, but still underfunds cancer research.

I’m not begrudging those dollars spent on metal detectors in airports, nor on hunting down Bin Laden. We need to do these things. Nor am I begrudging all those New Yorkers their poignant moment of silence. (Our moment of silence. It belongs to all of us.) Yet, I am led to reflect – on this bright and beautiful, yet somber day – the death of any of us before our time deserves a moment of silence.

In the words of John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.”


Stushie said...

I was holding the hand of my best friend, who was dying from cancer that morning. We were in a hospital room and it was unbelieveable. On one side of the bed, I watched David's vital signs flatline. On the other side, a muted TV showed me the twin towers ablaze. That moment has never left me.

Carl said...

Wow. What a story. Thanks for sharing it.