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In their own words: Reflections on 9/11

September 9, 2003

Hope that America will turn once again to the God of its fathers. A new appreciation for the fragility of life. The determination to do what really matters. And vowing to "not save the good wine for company."

We ask you, our InnerAction readers, to tell us how 9/11 had affected the way you live or your philosophy of life. Here, in your own words, is what some of you told us.
September 9, 2003

Hope that America will turn once again to the God of its fathers. A new appreciation for the fragility of life. The determination to do what really matters. And vowing to "not save the good wine for company."

We ask you, our InnerAction readers, to tell us how 9/11 had affected the way you live or your philosophy of life. Here, in your own words, is what some of you told us.

"As a nation that was founded on biblical principles, 9/11 makes me realize how God, in the past, had placed His protection around our country. Over time we, as a nation, have stepped further and further away from those principles. I believe that if we continue to remove God from our schools, public buildings, etc., we will have less and less protection from harm.

"Since 9/11, I pray that our leaders will put aside their own agendas and seek God for the decisions that will best bring blessings and not curses to our nation. I pray that it will not take another major loss of life for people to realize that what we do as individuals does affect the country as a whole.

"With each new day I pray a hedge of protection around those I love and care for. I thank God I live in a country where we value life, where men and women will risk their lives to save others. We are a truly blessed nation. We should always remember where our freedoms and blessings come from and that there is a price to pay for them."

Darlene Dunbar
Admissions and Records Clerk

"The events of September 11 changed my life in that it brought about a new appreciation for the fragility of life. As a result of the change I am more vigilant concerning matters usually taken for granted.

"My life has been surrounded by military concerns: living in a military town, ex-husband a Viet Nam medically retired veteran, one daughter who served several years in the armed forces, two son-in-laws currently serving in the military (both were deployed to Kuwait, one has returned).

"My only son is in the process of being deployed to Kuwait within the next two to three weeks. Along with the constant fear of negative events occurring, comes the positive strength from God that assures me that we will persevere."

Bert Brisson
Secretary
Academic Affairs

"I could not mentally absorb the enormity of 9/11 until months later, during a visit to New York City with my husband. Although neither of us wanted to visit Ground Zero, we felt we should, because of its historical significance and because it had become hallowed ground.

"Much of lower Manhattan was cordoned off, so our cabbie dropped us as close as possible to the site, and we walked with apprehension toward the place where the Twin Towers once stood. To our amazement, it was just a gaping hole corralled by a tall fence. Gone also were the grotesque steel girders, which for a time rose out of the ground like eerie sculptures against a smoky sky. The mountain of rubble had been carted off, and the stench of death finally had disappeared upward, like hesitant spirits ascending.

Except for blown-out windows in darkened offices of empty skyscrapers near Ground Zero, the field before us could have been the beginning of a downtown restoration project for a sports arena. We paused briefly before turning north toward a street where traffic was moving at a dramatically slow pace for New York.

At the corner, I looked to my left for a taxibut what I saw was a near-endless wall of mementos piled high against a protective fence around what had been a Catholic church. Photos of missing men, women, children. Long love letters, brief good-bye notes, large floral arrangements and single roses, numerous American flags, banners filled with hundreds of scribbled thoughts and signatures, teddy bears, dolls, football helmets, military medals, firemen's hats and policemen's shields, baseball gloves…all tributes to those whose lives had been taken away so suddenly.

My reaction was visceral. Not just sadness, but pain. It was as if a fist punched me in the stomach, taking my breath away. Tears welled up with a will of their own. All self-composure evaporated. In retrospect, I recall it paralleled my reaction the first time I saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I had seen both walls on TVbut nothing prepared me for seeing either up close.

This wall made the tragedy of 9/11 too real. Almost 3,000 people had died here. Not on a battlefield across the ocean, but in the heart of America's greatest citya city that even today is the country's true melting pot. Each 9/11 victim was someone's mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother.

How do you get past such a horrific event? You don't. You learn to live with it like an amputee learns to live with the very-real pain where his leg once was.

Although life moves forward, 9/11 affected me in many ways. I constantly remind myself to live in the moment. If there's anything my husband and I had planned to do “someday,” we do it nowor start the process. We try to maintain a perspective on the things that ultimately matter in lifeand in deathand make them the center of our lives. We take time to enjoy each other, our grandchildren, children and friends. When we depart from them or hang up the phone, we say we love them, realizing it's possible those could be our last words to them. We don't waste time doing so many things we truly do not want to do. We sing, even though we are off-key. We buy flowers for no reason. We don't save the good wine for company.

When 3,000 people left for work on the morning of 9/11, they thought they had lots of tomorrows. They didn't. Who says we willat least, on this earth? All we have is the precious present.

Dennie B. Burke
Executive Director
Public Relations and Marketing