I was in 5th grade and the day had started out like any other. But by 2nd-period French class, we were glued to the TV. As the camera shot was trained on the Twin Towers, we almost missed it—the second plane. The news anchor barely saw it happen. But sure enough, everything had changed. The rest of the school day was a blur. Being escorted to the gym for announcements. Classmates and friends being pulled from school left and right as rumors circulated about whose parents were supposed to be flying or in New York that day. The school I attended was located just a couple of miles from the Atlanta Airport, but the usually busy skies were empty.
I normally took the bus home, but on September 11, 2001, my dad came to pick me up. He told me that my aunts and uncles who lived and worked in Manhattan were safe, but deeply traumatized. I learned that evening about my parents evacuation plan should something happen in Atlanta. By the next school year, I had a cell phone. The world had shifted under my 5th grade feet and would never again be the same.
I have a recurring nightmare, infrequent as time has passed but it comes around every few years. I am in the Lower School at Woodward Academy, walking along the first floor hallway looking out of the giant windows. The sun is filtering in through the courtyard in the lovely way it always does. On a normal day, these windows watch planes take off every 1-5 minutes. But I know that today is different. And as I look outside, I see something in the sky and fear jolts through my body. In a matter of moments, I am running. Sometimes, teachers are yelling, classmates are crying. Other times, I am trying to get someone’s attention, frantically pointing up to tell them that something is very wrong. Even twenty years later, I always wake up terrified and out of breath.
The world shifted on 9/11, and so did each of us. Whether you were in the midst of the horror, watching it on TV, or unaware of the events of that day, your life is different. I don’t have words of wisdom or a profound message, except that remembering matters—as painful and terrifying as it is.
Join us Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 9:30 am as we remember those lives that were lost and forever changed by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. We will join together for scripture, prayer and to honor the first responders, especially those in and near the Pentagon. LEARN MORE
As followers of Jesus, and with our siblings in other faith traditions, we place great value on the act of remembrance. As we reflect on the solemn anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, we remember many loved ones lost and first responders who put their lives at risk, modeling the sacrificial love of Jesus, who said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
While 20 years have passed, I also want us to pause and remember the days that followed these tragic events. There was a moment in the aftermath when people came together. We were praying, grieving, and also working together. Because in that moment, however fleeting it was, we knew with immediacy and vulnerability that we need God, and we need each other.
Memories of that tender cooperation—of love for each other as neighbors—serve as guiding lights for the present. Amidst the ongoing pandemic and natural disasters that have taken so many lives and pushed first responders to their limits, and amidst a worldwide reckoning with the sin of racism, we are called to become the Beloved Community whose way of life is the way of Jesus and his way of love.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry