The Bug and I were in Washington, DC, on 9/11/01. Or at least trying to be. We had a suite for the week in a Maryland extended stay near a Red Line stop. We got up late, didn't turn on the tv as we rushed to get dressed, couldn't find parking at the Metro stop, and so decided to drive to another one or maybe just do some sight-seeing. I have been past Arlington Cemetery in car, train, plane, and even on foot, but I have never set foot in it. Perhaps this would be the day. It was a beautiful day, perfectly clear, too beautiful to spend in the National Archives doing what we had done the day before: reading about the reign of terror white supremacists were inflicting on the former slaves of Kentucky. So we headed down the Potomac on the GW toward Arlington, stopping at a small park along the way to make a pitstop. At that park our world changed. While The Bug rushed to the necessary, I got out to stretch. Two rangers approached and began a conversation. We were the only ones there, it was a weekday morning, so at first I thought they were bored. In fact, they were on high alert. For all they knew, our nation was already at war. A rather sloppy search of my car revealed that I was not a terrorist (they were remembering Timothy McVeigh, no doubt, while I was laughing a bit inside, thinking they thought I was a drug dealer or something). They asked where I was going, and when I said the Iwo Jima Memorial, then Arlington, they bristled and said that would not be possible. Not. Possible. Okay, I said, maybe if DC is locked down, we'll go up to Gettysburg. Hadn't been there in years. Gettysburg is going to be closed today, they said. All national parks will be closed. That's when it hit me. The rangers had not told me why any of this was happening. They had not told me that a plane had just crashed in the vicinity of the Pentagon. They certainly had not told me that the Towers had fallen. But they told me enough to shake the foundations of my world. I am a life-long frequenter of national parks, and I well knew that the Park Service does not arbitrarily shut down the park system...something terrible must have happened. Finally, after we had been cleared and instructed to head back to our hotel and turn on the news, they wished us well and went back inside. Now I had to go to the necessary, and on the way, a maintenance man, to whom I will ever be thankful, told me why I needed to get in the car and go back to the hotel: "You know the World Trade Center? Those twin towers? They're not there anymore...and our country may already be at war."
That's all I have to say about that...
Dear friends, we can wallow in death and fear and hate, or we can wallow in life. This weekend I'm doing the latter. I spent several hours yesterday helping members of The Bug's church sell root beer floats at a local blues and jazz festival, and it was great! Today I'm taking her to my university's home opener in football, then back to the festival. On our way to and from my school, we will be greeted by this sight, and it will bring delight and renewal and hope:
In memory of those who died on 9/11, and the thousands upon thousands who have died since that day as a direct consequence of those attacks, I present these sunflowers. May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, comfort those who mourn, soften the hearts of those who hate, and bring healing and peace to our embattled world.