The people weeping

Memorial flowers left on the fences surrounding Ground Zero, May 2007

Memorial flowers left on the fences surrounding Ground Zero, May 2007

There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand:
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand.
— Herman Melville

Almost all of us who are old enough to remember September 11, 2001, can describe where we were and what we were doing when we first heard of the terrorist attacks that morning.  We can recall how we felt; what we feared; what we first thought or said or did.

It’s a bit harder to recall accurately the pervasive uncertainty of those first few days after the attack, when none of us really knew what would come next.  With airline pilots and Air Force officers among my friends and immediate family, that sense of insecurity was heightened for me, but none of my loved ones endured more than a disrupted schedule.  For most of us, the ensuing years have unfolded with less trauma or inconvenience than we feared they might.  Aside from airport hassles and other forms of increased government scrutiny, our lives have remained much the same as we had come to expect.

Not so for the families of those who perished in the attacks, or who died (and are still dying) in the wars that followed. Not so for the wounded warriors who continue to fight for healing and a return to any resemblance of the life they knew before. Not so for the families who still are enduring separation from loved ones deployed to war zones.

Today it’s fitting to look back with grief for those whose lives were lost or changed forever.  It’s appropriate to resolve that we will remain vigilant against threats to freedom, whatever form they take, and recognize that the related inconveniences we sometimes encounter are minor in comparison to the price paid by those who willingly place themselves in harm’s way to protect and defend.

On this September 11th, I wish you a lovely early-autumn day, with skies free of threats, and hearts free of fear — and the full understanding of what a blessing those freedoms are.

34 Comments

  1. Thank you for your fitting tribute. September 15, 2001 — I flew my 757 through a column of the still smoldering stench rising from “ground zero” (I was in a right-hand traffic pattern for Runway 22, at LaGuardia.) I had to make an announcement to explain our unfortunate flightpath. I doubt any of the 185 people who breathed that air, that day, will ever forget that odor.

    • Time flies – the correct date of my LGA flight was September 15, 2001

      • I went back and corrected it 🙂 although I didn’t even notice the error until you sent this comment.

    • With all the horrors evoked by the repetitive video clips on the news, I doubt that most of us, who were not there, ever imagined the olfactory aspects of the carnage. I remember your calling me that morning as I was helping Matt get ready for school – in California, my radio clicked on at 6:00 am and the first thing I heard was the news that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. As I have for years whenever I heard of any airline crash, I started praying for you and all the others I knew who were airline pilots. You phoned a short time later and Drew answered – he told me that you wanted me to know you were safe, and that I should NOT go into the city (SFO) that day “because they may be targeting other landmarks.” I remember Jeff phoning to say he would not be coming home that day, and wasn’t sure when he would be home. It was a time of great uncertainty. How easily we forget the pervasive fears we all felt that day.

  2. HarryS

    I have just been made aware today, this very morning that my grief and mourning serve very useful purposes against the forces of evil for my mental attitude towards the occurrences of various atrocities in this world and some which regrettably were done by me is the certain insulator in my personal life against their recurrence and a powerful force of community spirit against the carnage which occurs in this world. 🙂

    Seems to me that God knew and knows what he is doing. 🙂

    • Yes Harry, I believe God weeps over the evil that causes so much suffering on earth, but still manages to work for our good even when things are worst. We once had a minister who said something I’ll never forget. He said people often asked him how he could believe in God when there was so much violence, destruction and wickedness. He said that his own thoughts were just the opposite; he believed in God because he could find no other explanation for the tremendous courage, heroism and compassion that he saw everywhere, especially in response to suffering, which he believed was the truest evidence of God being with us through it all.

  3. karen Hamilton

    Thank you Julia for your thoughts and for making us remember others instead of ourselves.

    • You’re welcome, Karen. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in my own world, but I find that focusing on other people — whether by admiring their talents, sharing their joy, or sympathizing with their sorrows — is the best remedy for being dragged down by despair.

  4. Carlyle

    Well said daughter! Thank you.

    • Thanks for being here, Daddy, and for preparing your children to survive and even thrive in an uncertain world.

      • Amen! Not only about “well said” but also what you said to Carlyle (Daddy).

  5. Carolyn

    I will never forget that day and all the lives that where lost. God Bless this wonderful country and the men in uniform that try so hard to keep us safe. You all have a good day. Hugs and love to all.

    • Thank you Carolyn. As a military family you all know how many little sacrifices our people in uniform make daily. All those I have known are happy and proud to wear the uniform despite the very mixed emotions that go along with it. Love to you and Terry!

  6. MaryAnn

    Thank you for reminding us to care & to be ever grateful & mindful of our freedoms.
    Turning our thoughts & hearts toward God today is the best way to cope. He will continue to show us the right direction!

    • Amen to that, Mary Ann!

  7. Mike Bertoglio

    Thankyou for your Blog and today’s fitting tribute. I had a chance to visit the new memorial site for “ground zero” on my NYC visit. The memorial presents a paradox of tranquility and fear and the effect is very unsettling-which I guess is the intention? Have not been to the museum there.
    The comments about God remind me of what was said about the Boston Marathon bombing-that God was there in those who ran toward the sounds of the explosions and in those hospital workers whom on their day off reported to the Mass General ER.

    • Thanks for your description of the new site. I have not seen it, nor had I read a description of it. The paradox you spoke of is quite appropriate; I feel much the same way when I enter the beautiful and profound final room of the Holocaust Museum here in DC. I am glad the artists who design such memorials are aware of the need to be somewhat unsettling. The Korean War Memorial here in DC is another such unforgettable tribute. I look forward to visiting the WTC memorial whenever we are able to get back to NYC.

  8. Terri Wallacker

    Amen. Thank you, Julia. Hope you have a beautiful day, too. Terri

    • 🙂 Thanks for being here, Terri!

  9. Thank You, BeLOVE Julia for sharing… remembering and praying and giving thanks for the ways in which my focus changed after September 11, 2001. God is Faithful to help us to learn to fear not in all the even ifs…

    • Yes, Kate, when we are forced to realize that our feeling of control and safety has been an illusion, we seek out what is unchanging and reliable, and renew our dedication to what matters most. Thanks for walking this road with us!

  10. Sheila

    Julia, I sense a somber mood everywhere today and I’m glad that we keep September 11th in our thoughts and reserve this day to remember and to be thankful for our freedom. On the Sunday, following the tragedy, the names of the known victims were displayed on the large screen at our church.I chose WANDA ANITA GREEN, a flight attendant on United Flight 93, to pray for, to always remember, and carry her memory with me in my heart. A very touching blog for all here today! Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, what a unique and meaningful gesture, to single out one of the many to remember. As with the bracelets we wore for the POW/MIAs during and after the Vietnam war, it helps to focus on one face and life to keep oneself from being overwhelmed and de-sensitized to the great losses around us. Yes, those who were lost will never be forgotten. Thanks for remembering them with us today!

  11. Thank you for this thought. Amen to all you said.

    • You’re welcome, Amy! I still plan to call you soon; I seem to spend most of my days putting out big and little fires lately…til then, Love & prayers to you and your family.

  12. Nancy

    The boys and I were in NYC on way home from our Bar Harbor trip couple years ago and walked to Ground Zero. Chills and feelings unknown to me before pervaded my total being. From the Statue of Liberty, we gazed on the landscape and remembered. It was an amazing sight both in 2001 and 2011…ten years later. James (13 now) learned more about that day at school today. Yes, forever in our memories much like it must have been in 1941 for those hearing the news of Pearl Harbor. Thanks, Julia, for reminding us of the freedom we have and those who gave their lives for all of us.

    • Thanks Nancy, I am glad you are teaching your sons so much about our country through your travels. The lessons James had in school today will be optimized by his experience of having seen the place that was being discussed. Hard to believe he’s already 13! Thanks for being here.

    • re: “chills and feelings unknown” – As I have tried to impart to Drew, many battlefields of the American Civil war evoke the same chills and feelings. At Antietam, for example, over 20,000 Americans were lost in a single day! I believe it is the overwhelming “life force”, for want of better words, that lingers at such cites. Chill bumps on the arms seem to come more from a “sixth sense” than from cold, historical facts, when one visits such places.

      • Eric, at the risk of sounding like a total “loony tunes” to people who have never met me in person*, I have to add something I think I’ve mentioned to you before; I think these very strong vibes (for lack of a better word) that we feel at many places, not just strictly historical ones, are somehow related to Einstein’s theory of relativity. If time really is a more flexible construct than we conceive it to be, there is a sense in which all events are happening simultaneously. I hope that makes sense, but if it doesn’t, just write it off to my having not enough caffeine so far today. (*Those who have known me in person already knew I was a total loony tunes.)

  13. It still too hard to fathom how horrifying that day became for so many families. I don’t watch the coverage because it’s too much, it really affects me. But I hope there is healing and recovery year after year.

    • I don’t watch the coverage either, and seldom watch the clips on the internet. As with all sorrows, even the healing leaves us changed forever. Someone gave Matt a lovely book about the dog heroes who worked so hard to find and rescue people in the rubble. It’s touching and comforting.

      • The comment section that never ends: Einstein applied quantum physics to a phenomenon a wise old man stated very simply – “past, present, and future coexist.”

        • Eric, did that wise old man happen to be Daddy? I think I have heard him say that. It’s oddly appropriate that “the comment section that never ends” would be related to Einstein! 🙂

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