As my boys approach an age where they will be drawing their own conclusions about the events of September 11, 2001, I thought it might be time to share some of my own reflections. Things that made the tragedy feel deeply personal. Some of which, I’ve never publically shared before.
It was August, 2001. My best friend and her husband had recently moved to Florida to pursue a new job. Not long after their move, their nine month old son was injured and my friend and her husband found themselves living a nightmare. My heart ached for them, and I told her to say the word and I would be on a plane.
She said the word, and I began preparations to make the trip.
I didn’t share this with anyone for years. Partly because of how deeply personal it was, and partly because I didn’t understand it myself.
But in the days leading up to my flight, I could not shake a heavy feeling of impending tragedy. I actually felt as though there was a good chance I would not be coming home.
I wrote three letters, dated August 24, 2001 and tucked them into the family photo album. I wrote one to each of my two sons, and then one to my husband. I told them how deeply I loved them, and how I trusted that God would continue to lead them and meet their every need.
Several days later, I was standing at a gate, saying goodbye to my husband and our two little boys, who were 4 and 2 at the time. I had tried to prepare my oldest son for what was about to happen. But all he knew was that his mom was getting on a plane and leaving him. And he sobbed.
In my heart, that heavy feeling remained, and I cried through most of the flight.
In the ten days that followed, I was incredibly thankful for the time I was able to spend with my friends. I couldn’t change their circumstances. And there wasn’t much I could do physically to help. But I trusted that in spite of it all, my presence would be a comfort.
I thanked God for the friends back home who cared for my boys while my husband went to work each day.
And I thanked God for a husband who wanted to help, even if that meant sending his wife on a plane and caring for two small boys on his own.
I missed my family more than I ever thought possible. By the time I boarded the plane for my return trip, I could not wait to hug them again. I thought of little else as I watched the lightening from storm after storm light up the clouds beneath the plane.
As the pilot landed and taxied to the appropriate gate at the Philadelphia International airport, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had made it home in spite of how deeply I had thought I would not. My husband and boys were waiting for me. And I hugged them tight.
Feeling silly to have felt such impending doom, and even a little embarrassed about the letters I had written, I told no one.
We got home in the wee hours of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I thanked God for the gift of being allowed to tuck my two little boys into bed one more time.
When I awoke, I was still feeling that sense of awe, that God had given me a gift that I couldn’t explain.
As the events of that terrible day unfolded, my husband and I spent most of it standing in front of this couch, riveted to the Television in this room. My two year old and his big brother played downstairs away from the horrors of what we were seeing.
* * *
I don’t know why God lays some things on our hearts the way he does. But I’ve come to wonder if the heaviness I felt was the sorrow of the Holy Spirit over what was about to happen.
Every year, at this time, I’m reminded of the gift God gave me that day. A gift so many other parents did not get. Sometimes, I even take the letters out and read them again.
I look at my children, and I think of those little boys and girls who are growing up without their mom or dad. And I pray for them. I pray that God will be their all.
I pray for the husband or wife that has had to go on alone.
And for the parents who lost the light of their lives.
For the many many soldiers who have given their time, and even their lives to keep tragedies like this from again touching our shores.
I pray, too, that those in our country who strive to push God out of our government,
out of our schools,
and even out of their lives,
will one day realize how much
that very same God