Every year on this day, I find myself forgetting to breathe, holding my breath every time I look at the news, waiting…waiting for the words and the images to appear on the screen.
I know I am not alone in this. I am not the only one who has a deep and abiding fear tangled up in this day. I am not the only one who grieves for the loss of people and peace.
My children, I think, they know nothing of life for us before this day. They do not know that we were married mere months after the attack. They do not know the fear I had walking up the steps to get on an airplane in December of 2001 for our honeymoon. They do not understand the relief of landing on the concrete of an airport safely. They do not know the fear and the despair of that day and of the days and years that followed. They do not, but I do. We do. And we remember. I remember.
I remember sleeping peacefully and late into the morning.
I remember my then fiancé bursting into my apartment, talking non-stop, words jumbling in my brain indistinguishable from the numbness of my sleep.
I remember the look on his face when I gained focus.
I remember sending him out of the apartment with a weak “I’ll meet you at your place”, so I could get dressed.
I remember half walking/half jogging to his apartment to watch the news, trying with every bit of me to focus on what he had said and make sense of it all.
I remember seeing smoke on the screen of the tv, still struggling to awaken from such a deep slumber.
I remember looking at my fiancé staring blankly at that same screen.
I remember asking him what I was looking at and if it was real.
I remember not being able to shift my eyes from the image.
I remember a subtle panic welling up inside of me.
I remember when the second plane hit.
I remember the Pentagon.
I remember the plane in Pennsylvania.
I remember the panic no longer being subtle.
I remember feeling numb and feeling firey at the same time.
I remember knowing I would never forget and wishing I could take the images out of my mind.
I remember people jumping. Dust in the air. Panicked voices. Wailing. Destroyed vehicles on the streets. Children. I remember hearing about the children.
I remember going to a gathering on our college campus and listening to a man talk about class cancellations and available counselors for the undone hearts surrounding me.
I remember the words of our president, and I remember his face as he spoke them.
I remember their faces, images of people I did not know with names underneath, recordings of phone calls made with the now familiar voices of strangers saying goodbye.
I remember the stories of their lives.
I remember the expressed sorrow of their loved ones.
I remember the despair.
And I remember the hope.
I remember the sensation of pride rising up in a nation that would overcome.
I remember people crying on the shoulders of the stranger next to them.
I remember people noticing those around them.
I remember the humanity of it all and the way people put aside all of their preferences to uphold the grieving and the broken.
I remember the all night candlelit vigils at churches around the country.
I remember once silent voices crying out to a forgotten God, yelling over the sorrowful cries of mourning, “Why have you forsaken us, God?”
And I remember words I have read and heard many times over reverberating in my soul, “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?”
I remember understanding on a much smaller scale what weight My Jesus must have felt on that cross; what loneliness.
I remember knowing those words were not His last, and knowing they would not be the last of our nation either.
I remember the peace from acknowledging the sovereignty of God, Who does not hide in a dark corner unaware, but waits to be called upon.
I remember longing for the people surrounding me to look up, to take hold of grace, to find hope in the God who willingly suffered the terror of seeing His own son suffer and die for the good of those who would call out His name and love Him…that God, the ONLY God, gave up everything so that we could run to Him in our confusion and anguish…that God, He did not abandon them. He has not abandoned us. He will not forsake His own children.
That God, He remembers this day.
He remembers their faces, their names, their stories.
He remembers you.
He remembers where you were when you heard.
He remembers how you felt. He knows how you still feel.
He remembers. He knows. And He waits.