Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago today...

Seven years ago today I was walking the streets of our gracious Pasadena neighborhood in the pre-dawn darkness. I was with a trusted friend and I felt safe, listened to, loved. There was a comfortable chill in the air, just the right temperature for our ritual three-mile stroll.

We walked the same route nearly every morning. All the houses were familiar, as were most of their gardens and pets. One morning on this same route we witnessed something completely outside the norm -- we saw a hawk swoop down, catching a white dove in mid-air, and devour it on someone's front lawn. We were horrified, and yet we couldn't tear ourselves away from the scene. We watched the dove flutter and flap, nearly escape, and then succumb. It was like feeling compelled to look at a car accident when you pass by on the freeway. Something in our psyche needed to take it all in. We'd seen creatures in the wild many times on the trails -- a huge rattlesnake ready to strike, a great blue heron perched on a rock, a black bear on the run -- but nothing felt like such an injustice, an invasion, as seeing this dove suffer under the powerful talons of the hawk. Finally we couldn't watch it any more. We tore ourselves away and moved on.

My lungs breathed in and out, a little harder as we crested the hill, then slowing again as we covered the downhill stretch toward home. Home, where my husband would be waking. Home, where the children were still sleeping. Home, our bastion of safekeeping. I crossed the front lawn, stopping to marvel at the hydrangeas -- still blooming, changing color -- and noticed that the plants on the big wraparound porch were looking parched.

I walked upstairs and heard the radio abuzz with tension and static. When I got close enough to make out the actual words, I heard something almost as bizarre and unthinkable as H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds". A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, causing a gaping hole, flames, and then the collapse of the entire tower. I couldn't take in the gravity of it all at once. A freak accident. But then there was another, and another. This had to be intentional. An attack in mid-air. Master-minded by terrorists.

Over and over again we watched it on the news: The crash, the wreckage, the slow-motion collapse. We watched until we. Could. Not. Watch. Any. More.

My in-laws called from Newport where they were vacationing. They couldn't get a flight out. So they wanted to camp at our house. I was grateful and relieved. There was something so reassuring about their wisdom, their stability, their companionship. Family. I secretly hoped they'd never leave.

The hardest thing I had to do was send our children off to school. The sky was falling. The world was collapsing around us. Our sense of safety had vanished forever.
I didn't want my little hatchlings to leave our nest that day. But it was expected, required. As I pondered my total inability to protect them once they left my grasp, it occurred to me that the only thing I did have a direct influence on their spiritual safety. So that morning, as if their very lives depended on it, we dressed them in a full suit of armor, a piece at a time: The shield of faith. The helmet of salvation. The sword of the spirit. Right down to the feet shod in the gospel of peace, placed there by the angels themselves. Then, and only then, did we let them venture out into the world.

We followed the same pattern for weeks and months afterward, carefully reading each verse with the children as we symbolically draped them in the armor of God.

And then we started getting comfortable again. Terrorism didn't seem like such an immediate threat any more. The crisis was averted. Traveling was inconvenient. But our homes were safe.
--Or were they?

I love the lessons I learned on September 11, 2001. That no one is really ever safe. That family matters more than anything else on earth. And that there is incredible peace in knowing that our children have been taught of the Lord. That our only real safety is in the hands of the Savior. That His is the only real peace.

I am ashamed that I don't send the children out into the world EVERY day as prepared as I did that morning. But when I'm reminded of 9/11 I feel a renewed sense of urgency. I remember how that day, when I felt powerless and weak, suddenly I became strong. And I recommit myself to arming our children, and safe-guarding our home from dangerous influences. Because I want that kind of strength every day, for them and for me.

"Take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day...that ye may be able to stand...Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."


Kimberly said...

Though one nation removed from the terror of that experience, I remember being shaken to the core. That human beings could do such things to other human beings shattered me somehow. The inspiring stories of courage and strength that came from it put me back together again. We are such walking contrasts, we humans.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

It all happened just 2 months after our family returned from our vacationing in New York. I could still see clearly my family standing on the observation deck of one of the towers, their happy faces, the awe at the beauty of the city. I remembered the workers at the snack bar on that floor. All of it superimposed over the scene of collapsing towers. It shook me to the core. My heart broke, but the lessons I learned I keep forever. Thanks for this beautiful post.

breckster said...

Thank you for sharing. That morning my alarm was set to an irreverent alternative station with boisterous annoying DJs, I was shocked they were trying to pull a "war of the worlds" stunt so early in the morning. As was my habit, I turned on CNN to keep me company while I ate breakfast, I saw the second tower fall with the little "live" in the corner. BYU had a special prayer meeting, with attendance as high as when the prophet would come. As a campus we sang, we prayed, we were encouraged to be bearers of peace, and sent back to class. I spent the rest of the day in a haze, terrified of the changes that were sure to accompany the attack. The talk of revenge overwhelmed me, blinding me to the reminders of faith, family, sacrifice, and service. As the week went on, and I was able to pick and choose which coverage I watched I saw hope through the horrificness of that morning. I saw bearers of peace.

The subway stop still says WTC, but Ground Zero is a construction site. Last night two lights marked the place where the towers stood. Those two beams remind me of the real comfort I found in the aftermath; faith, family, sacrifice, and service.

Kazzy said...

That day is surely burned into my memory as well. I just held my little three-year old and felt so sick all day. And in true "me" fashion, I started and finished a project that week at the house that should have taken me a few weeks. This is one way I cope, but of course it hit again and again later. Thanks for the post.

Heather of the EO said...

Just an excellent post. The birds. Wow. On that particular day, a dove devoured before you. Wow.

I love what this post taught me about the armor. To pray that over my children as they navigate this crazy world. I've never looked at the armor in quite this way, placing on my children as they venture away from my care.
They are always in His care. I need to trust that. Sure can be hard...

Thank you!

Melanie J said...

This is thought provoking and inspiring. Sometimes I like to pretend I live in a world where these things don't happen and yet they very much do. I think your efforts to arm your children are a far wiser way to handle it. It's so hard to walk that balance between preparing them so they can live without fear without scaring them so much they fear anyway. I guess the point is to try, though.

Brillig said...

Powerful stuff, Charrette. The birds... wow! What a foreshadowing that turned out to be!

I love your thoughts on putting on the armor. We could definitely be doing better at that in my house. You've given me lots to think about! (And I LOVE a good post that gives me lots to think about!)

Redi-Kilowatt said...

I so remember the day...I too kept listening and watching the news...but eventually had to tear myself away, as I saw the effect it was having on my young children, then 3 and 4. I appreciated your comments on putting the armor onto your children each day...A good friend and I used to run every week day morning at 5:30am.As we did we would talk about everything under the sun, but most often about scriptures, conference talks, etc. One day we talked about putting on the armor of God...and she shared with me a realization she had had once which has been etched in my mind forever. She said that she envisioned her children going into battle each they went out into the world and how crucial it was to help them put on the armor (there is a great talk about this by the way, I think by Boyd K. Packer), and then she said it hit her one day that as the fiery darts hit them the armor is damaged and weakened...she said she realized then how important it is not just to arm them each day...but also to help them repair the armor each night so that it is ready to go into battle the next day. How vital to talk to our children, find out how their day went, what they were faced with and help repair the damage and strengthen them to fight the good fight again. I have been trying this year especially to do that, and have come to cherish those conversations with my children. They understand so much and can teach us so much...