Fonticulus Fides

Thursday, September 11, 2003

How I learned to pray after 9/11

I think nearly every single American was horrified by the attacks of this day two years ago. Like so many others, I still remember how I learned the news of the first plane and assumed it was an accident…then how the second plane’s strike made it abundantly clear that our country was under attack.

At the time, there was so much horror and loss to consider I could hardly process it all. And as a mom, I found myself in those first few days focussing on the children.

There were only a handful of children who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three were schoolchildren, accompanied by their teachers on a plane bound for California. Perhaps the best students in their classes, who had won this trip as a result of their hard work.

Then there was a pair of sisters on their way to an exciting vacation with their parents. Two other girls, each travelling with her parents. A little boy travelling with his.

Beautiful, innocent children…lives cut short by suicidal madmen, dying in untold fear.

As I read their names and ages in the victim lists, I wept and prayed that somehow, parents or other caring adults were able to calm these children in their final moments. I wanted someone to have told them not to be afraid, that the worst would soon be over, that God’s mercy awaited them.

In the weeks that followed, I was obsessed by the other children wounded on that day – children who had lost their parents on planes or in the Pentagon or in the World Trade Center towers. Children who had to face the sudden, senseless death of their moms or dads. Were there any who lost both parents? I’ve never been able to find out.

Then the witnesses, the children in the elementary school that sat in the towers’ shadow, who saw the attacks, who saw people falling from the upper floors, who saw the towers collapse and fled with their teachers.

A woman who was part of an on-line community I belong to was dropping her first-grade daughter off at that school when the first plane hit. She stayed at the school, trying to reach her husband on a cell phone to tell him not to go into work at the South Tower but she never could reach him. When the first skyscraper buckled, she snatched her daughter out of the classroom and ran, ran, ran as fast as she could to the north. Covered in ashes, mother and daughter finally met up with the husband and father 25 blocks north. He’d been held up and hadn’t made it to the office before the planes hit. He’d been running north, too. Even though they were all safe, the daughter was forever changed after 9/11. Witnessing it without personal loss was horror enough for a child.

My son was two years old at the time, and I failed to shield him from the events as well as I could have. He saw the taped footage of planes hitting the towers. He wanted to talk about it. My husband told him, "It makes me very sad that this happened. It makes Mom sad. It makes everybody sad." After that, we kept the television off when he was awake.

As our nation prepared to answer the attacks, I thought about the other children who would surely die as a result. Children always seem to be caught in the crossfire in any war, and that has proved true in the war with Iraq. And suddenly, I had to face the realization that this could happen to my child. The same senseless death, by terrorism or by war.

It’s a hard thing for a mother. We have these babies (or adopt them) and our main goal from there on out is to keep that child alive and safe from harm. And now I had to accept the fact that I really couldn’t guarantee that my child would always be safe. The best I can do is to teach my kids to love the Lord and trust in Him when their time comes.

The way I pray for my children changed forever on September 11, 2001. Now I pray, "Lord, let them be courageous in the face of death, and let them die at peace with You."

I pray this way because whether my children die in this conflict or die in some other untimely way, or die as wizened old people surrounded by loved ones, courage and peace with God will be the only things they need…

…the only things that any of us will need.

Please, as you remember the souls of those lost this day two years ago, remember these children by name.

Christine Lee Hanson, age 2.
David Reed Gamboa Brandhorst, age 3
Dana Falkenberg, age 3
Juliana Valentine McCourt, age 4
Zoe Falkenberg, age 8
Bernard Curtis Brown II, age 11
Asia S. Cottom, age 11
Rodney Dickens, age 11


Post a Comment

<< Home