Where was I? I was an 18 yo kid living at home while going to college at the end of the summer that began with his HS graduation. To this day, that summer is probably the “iconic” summer of my life – though this past summer, 10 yrs later, certainly rivaled it. I had gone to Cedar Point, seen the very plane JFK’s body was flown to DC in, in which LBJ was sworn in in, went hiking at Amicalola, gone to my first NSCS Leadership Summit, where I had a chance to drive a 2001 yellow Mustang convertible for the weekend (and gone to Universal Islands of Adventure for a few hrs)…
… and on Sept 11 itself, around 8:30 in the morning, I was driving down I-75 from Cartersville to Kennesaw, with a 12 pack of Mello Yello in the passenger seat, intending to get what I then called “pseudo drunk” over a breakup over the weekend from a girl I had been dating for the later part of the summer. (BTW: Drink 12 mello yellos back to back – guarantee the guy standing next to you won’t be able to tell you’re not drunk! ;))
I was listening to 104.7 The Fish Atlanta, as I did every morning in that era, when news reports came on of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My honest-to-God thought was that it was a little Cessna, that it happens relatively often, and that it wasn’t THAT big of a deal – about the same as any other small plane crash, which were relatively common in North Ga at the time.
I got to school/ work – already one and the same place – and learned the full magnitude of what was transpiring. When I got up to 5th floor of KSU’s Science Building, which then held the offices of the CSIS Dept, we began reading online what was happening – then the websites came down, as the traffic was simply too much for the servers to handle. So we scrambled around to try to find a TV, which we set up in the break room.
At 11:00, I went to class, as they had not been cancelled yet. It was Dr. Meg Murray’s CSIS 3600, Systems Analysis and Design (mostly a DB oriented course), but by then most people knew what had happened. Dr. Murray pretty simply told everyone that there would be no class today, because no one could possibly focus on class. So I went back to CSIS and did the last official thing I did for the day: I put up a post noting that school had been cancelled for the day and explaining why on the bulletin board that we ran at the time for the Programming 1 and 2 courses.
After that, I walked around campus for a bit, where many others were already organizing trips to NYC to help. Then I went home. Late that night, I wrote a piece (on paper, as I hadn’t discovered blogging yet and wouldn’t for nearly a decade) that concluded with the lines “May God have mercy on the souls of those who did this – because I sure as hell don’t.”
I actually found that piece at my parents’ house a year or two ago, and remember reading it and reliving writing it. I’m glad to say I’ve matured a bit in the intervening decade, and while I still have no sympathy for the actual attackers of that day, I’ve come to realize my and our role in producing them, and I’ve begun to actually try to end the cycle, to what degree I can. Granted, I can’t change an entire culture, but I can change my own heart, and maybe I can even appeal to yours. One of the grave problems of that day was that our culture had been demonized in the Muslim culture of the era, and in turn their culture has now been demonized in ours. For some insight into what Amnerican Muslims are REALLY like, check out 30Mosques.com. Heck, instead of relying on Bil OReilly, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck to tell you what Muslims believe, how about picking up a copy of the Koran and READING IT FOR YOURSELF? I did, about a month ago, and so far it has been an intriguing read – not at all what I had been taught to think it said. (BTW: Many might want to do the same project with the Bible… #justsaying…)
Finally, I want to leave you with a couple of links that I found genuinely interesting/ profound/ sad today:
and this quote, which Merritt uses a piece of:
The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.
September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son. -Will Willimon, presiding bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church