10 years ago today, I was in my Dad's Ford Ranger on my way to school early to put up posters for my brother's birthday. Over the radio, we heard a vague account of an airplane hitting one of the Twin Towers in New York City. There was a lot of confusion in the news blurb regarding just how and why a plane had managed to veer off course and strike the tower.
I entered the school building, put up my posters, and headed across the street to the building that housed my seminary course, which I attended at the start of school each day. The crowd of 30 or so students in my class was humming with rumors and the undertones of fear. It wasn't an accident. It was an attack from Iraq. It was a hijacking. It was a lunatic. My instructor tried to soothe us, even using scripture to discuss the good things America stands for. We felt somewhat consoled.
As we entered the main building of the high school, the news came: There was another plane. The reality that this was a deliberate attack felt like a punch to the stomach. My aunt and cousin both worked in downtown New York. After an agonizing math class in which we were not allowed to turn on the news or leave the room, I rushed to the phone to confirm my family was ok. My mother had heard from both of them and they were thankfully alive.
As I watched the towers crumble from my seat in the orchestra room, tears came. My feelings at that moment can only be described as uncertain. Yesterday I had felt such optimism for life, as most 15-year-olds do. I was born into such privilege, in the most prosperous country in the world. My future stretched out before me like a rosy path to anywhere. Today, that confidence had been stripped from me, and all I could think about was the fact that it was my brother's 18th birthday -- he would be signing up for the draft. I looked around at my classmates and wondered where we would all be years down the road if a war broke out. All of my adolescent expectations fell with those towers.
And yet. Despite the fearful memories and the scars that will never heal for everyone who saw those images, today I feel hope. Hope because of the neighbor who arrived on my doorstep with dinner, for no reason other than she thought I might need it. Hope because of the 5 guys who showed up with a trailer and spent two hours hauling our furniture across town. Hope because of the stranger who stopped me on the way to my car to ask if I needed help carrying my bag. Hope because, 10 years later, we have managed to hang on to the decency of civilization and, although we may not always agree with the choices of our leaders, when it comes down to it we always stand together when it really matters.
Many times people have asked me if I'm scared to raise Walt in such a society. I'm not. I'm thrilled for his future and I want to raise him in a way that he sees the rose colored highway before him, and feels he can go anywhere and do anything as long as he keeps that decency in his heart. I'd like him to keep those adolescent dreams and expectations a little longer than I did. 10 years later, I still believe he was born in the greatest country in the world. And what I truly want for my son is for him to feel, every day, that there is always hope.