(click to enlarge)vigilsmall.jpg (75934 bytes)Sept 12, 2001

On the Third Day

If I had written the story of day one of the WTC tragedy, it could easily have been entitled "Denial and Disbelief," day two would have been "Awaking to the Aftermath."  On the third day, the President declared a national day of prayer, and I, like Jesus, rose again.  It was Friday; I returned to work and began to get back to the business of living. 

My husband and I arranged to meet at noon for a service at New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  It was raining as I got off the subway and walked toward the Cathedral.  The red plaid umbrella we bought in Venice on our honeymoon a week earlier seemed taxed by the New York wind.  It turned inside out more than once before I reached the corner where I met my husband. I imagined the rescuers struggling in inclement weather.  The rain and heavy wind would make it even more difficult to find anyone or any clues.  My husband arrived right on time and we ascended the steps into the cathedral.

I was numb listening to the woman minister, her Irish brogue lilting with a slight echo in the cavernous building.  It was a national day of prayer, but it was also "Cross Day," she told us -- a day when Christians remember how a symbol of tragedy and suffering became a symbol of hope.  As she anointed each one of our foreheads with oil in the sign of the cross, I wondered if the Trade Towers would ever become a symbol of hope.

All around us sat a tapestry of New York City.  To our left, two women sat holding hands, their young daughter about two years old, wandered in the aisle.  Seated in front of them, a typical upscale New York family, three kids, a teenager and two younger.   The youngest, whispered, questions about why people were crying.  In front of us sat two Italian tourists, their maps in their pockets.  And in front to our right, a middle aged Hispanic couple sat holding on tight to each other.  I became acutely aware of what it means to be a New Yorker and the connection we share with all other human beings.  It seemed the tragic events of the week vividly demonstrated our oneness as a city, a nation, a world, and a people.

At the end of the service, no one left the sanctuary, we all stood, silently as though we didn't realize it was over.  Then the organ played the recessional, our national anthem.  Everyone stayed and sang or tried to sing through tears:  "Oh, say can you see . . ." Never had I heard the words so clearly.  "And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air . . ." When we sang, "That our flag was still there," the Hispanic man in front of us took an American flag out of his pocket and stretched it up as far as he could reach.  Through the rest of the song he held it higher and higher still, while his head remained bowed and his shoulders shook with sobs.

"The land of the free and the home of the brave."  That's what we've lost.   Or I've lost since September 11th.  That unabashed, na´ve sense of freedom and bravery.  Some say it is because of our own arrogance and false sense of security that the terrorists were able to pull off the attacks.  I don't think it was a false sense at all.  This country was founded on the belief that with freedom and liberty we have a better life - and we created that.  What happened was so terrible, we look for blame, we want a cause that makes sense.  I think if anything, we have learned that not everything has an answer or an explanation.  But that shouldn't end our quest for freedom and liberty.  Now more than ever we must be the land of the free and home of the brave.  Because you do have to be brave to be free.  Any coward can sit in a cave and plot to destroy the world.  It takes real courage to believe in freedom, to have faith in the face of terrorism.  And that kind of faith is what will restore our country and our world

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