How can it be twenty years?  I had just turned on the TV to catch the morning news.  Clearly something was very wrong in New York City.  The reporter was saying something about a plane having crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.  They said something about “Perhaps it was a small tourist plane.”  Then I watched in horror as another plane, a large airliner, flew straight into the other one.  This was not an unfortunate accident.  I called Joel.  We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.  There were images of things falling out of windows.  I would not think that these could be people jumping.  Yet they were.

I began to worry about my cousin Paul who was a New York City police detective and other relatives who could be in the city that day.  Not long after the first tower fell, our doorbell rang.  It was our friend Judy who was visiting from Madison, Wisconsin.  She had driven up to Osseo, two hours north, with music on the whole way.  She walked in smiling.  The color drained out of her face when we told her what was going on.  Her daughter, Maria, worked just three or four blocks from the WTC.  She spent the next three hours on the phone trying to get in touch with her, but all the lines were down.  After Maria was able to get her a message that she was alright, Judy drove right home and we began planning a prayer service for that evening.  Paul ended up okay, but his family didn’t know where he was for at least 24 hours.

I’m sure we all have stories about where we were and what was happening the day it seemed the whole world changed.  Well, it did change, particularly for citizens of the United States.  So used to feeling somewhat invulnerable on the world stage, we joined the club of the vulnerable.  Just about everyone else in the world is a member.  I think that is one of the reasons that much of the world stood by us.  They knew that our grief was great.  They have known it for a long time.

As we are now in the middle of another world crisis in Afghanistan which began as a result of 9/11, it is time for us to go back and remember that terrifying day.  Remember all of those who lost their lives in New York, at the Pentagon, in the fields of Pennsylvania.  Remember how it was a time of both anger and grief.  How it brought out the best in some people, but sadly the worst in others.  As another country is in turmoil, let us try to use what we have learned from our past trauma to reach out and hold up others who are in it.  We can use our pain to deepen our humanity, not lose it.

So, listen for the bells of the church at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2021.  We will ring them once for each year that has passed.  Then come to our vigil that evening at 6:00 p.m on the First Church Lawn.  Bring a candle if you chose, also a lawn chair or blanket.  We will have the fire pit burning.  If the weather is not good, bring a mask so that we might move inside.  Masks outside are optional as long as we keep well-distanced.   We will have a service of prayer, readings, sharing, and silence.  But most of all, we will have a time of presence – to God, one another, and the world.

The Rev. Dr. Kate Winters is co-pastor of First Church in Belfast, UCC.

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