Birthday Ramblings

I turned 17 on 9/11/2001. The twin towers collapsed during a shopping spree my Mom and I were doing on a Military base in southern Germany. The news arrived in pieces—the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, another plane outside Pittsburgh. Something terrible was occurring on U.S. soil. We were set to eat at the on –base Subway when chaos happened. The base shut down. Only military I.D. holders were allowed on base. All civilians had to leave. My family and I headed back to our home in our small village of Buch.
The radio was no help. Differing reports arrived. Nothing was certain. Once home, CNN’s coverage captivated my attention. My homeland was being attacked. My parents tried desperately to reach my two older brothers who were stateside. Phone lines were down. Our German friends called incessantly to check on us and inquire after our families.
I noted in my journal the next day, “Both towers of the World Trade Center are gone. It is estimated that 4-5,000 people are dead. The planes were hijacked and it was definitely a terrorist attack on America. Gerhart Schroder, chancellor of Germany, said, “This is not just an attack on America. It’s an attack on the civilized world.” Another German politician said, “Today we are all Americans.”
Since that day, when people noticed my passport or driver’s license, they remark, “Wow, 9/11.” My birthday is now a national day of remembrance of a tragedy. Each year now, I feel sadness at the loss of so much life on that day. I grapple with the brevity of life. I stagger in my faith. I consider the meaning behind our lives.
As I enter into my 29th year, and as the tragedy of 9/11/2001 is 12 years behind us, I ponder what has changed. How have I changed? How has my country changed? Am I more aware of the world? Is my country more compassionate now? Do I appreciate life that I still have? Am I doing justice to the causes of those who died or am I still sitting around in my corner, waiting for life to happen to me?
The pages of my journal from 2001 are full of the ramblings of a 17 year-old girl with a very limited world view. Very little changed around the small village I lived. The world could explode, yet Buch was the same. It was a blend of comfort and confines. I muse if America was the same. We have our comfort and our borders. I wonder if we knew about the lives of Afghani women before 9/11. I wonder if we paid attention to the injustices in Iraq before 9/11. I wonder if we truly empathized with the genocide in African nations before such terror struck our own. I wonder if our country truly understands the rhythms behind other cultures, or if we are bull-headed still in our American pride. I wonder if we are waking up to the issues in our homeland and taking steps to change those things. These are just my musings in response my birthday. I’m neither a politician nor a reformer. I’m an American—one who has lived overseas, encountered multiple cultures and faiths, and is stirred to active participation in what matters.
Even so, I had to leave my small village to grow as a person. I had to leave, grow up, experience the world. I had to do some more travelling, get to know other people, branch out in my thought processes. The world is so much bigger and broader than the confines of my house. I wonder what would happen to employ the forces of good if I got up off my butt and did something. Volunteered. Helped a neighbor. Called a friend. Wrote a poem. Tragedies should change you. But hopefully, a rose will emerge from the thorns. Hopefully, as Paul wrote in Romans, we will not be overcome by evil, but we will overcome evil with good. The new year of my life lies before me like a fresh blanket of snow just waiting for footprints.
“The darkness of the whole world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle,” said St. Frances of Assisi. I couldn’t agree more.
Let’s shine.

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