I was in divinity school, and I had class on that day. But first I had to go to a staff meeting at the church where I was doing my internship. When I got up and started to get ready, I was listening to the radio and heard that apparently there had been an airplane that crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings. I was living with my in-laws at the time, and they do not own a television set. So in my mind's eye, I pictured a small plane that had made an error and flown into the building because the radio dj did not elaborate on anything at that point.
Once I got out of the shower a few minutes later, I heard about the second airplane, and I only thought of one word--terrorists. I was on my way to the church when I heard about the Pentagon. And I forget exactly where I was when the news about the Pennsylvania plane crash reached my ears.
During staff meeting, it was obvious that the pastor did not fully comprehend the magnitude of what had happened. He had not seen the images at that time. I hadn't either, but I knew that things were pretty scary anyway.
After staff meeting, our full-time organist and myself went to the youth room where there was a television. When the picture of the World Trade Center came on the screen, we noticed that there was only one building instead of two. It was absolutely incomprehensible. We could not imagine or even begin to imagine how many people would have been in that building when it collapsed. And as we watched, the other tower came down.
Those were the only images I had of the events of 9/11 until after I received my copy of Time later that week. No television at home, I had to rely on the radio that day. I never saw the constant replays of the events or even the footage of the plane hitting the second building.
I called my husband after I returned home. He was 200 miles away because we were living apart as I went to school and did my last semester of intenship. I really wished I could have been with him that day. I called his parents at the restaurant they owned, but they could not fully comprehend the events of that day no matter how my husband or myself told them. They would finally know the scope of 9/11 about three days later because that is when their Chinese language newspaper came in the mail.
I finished up my reading reflection for that day's class. I took my mom out to lunch because her birthday had been the day before, and we often went to lunch on Tuesdays that semester.
At school, people crowded around the television in the lounge. Discussions about the response to the day's events took up all the time in my seminar class. I told my classmates to make sure they at least wrote a journal entry for that day. But what I remember the most is the absolutely perfect weather that we had. It was one of those days in September in North Carolina where the weather remembers that autumn is not too far away. The humidity is low, and the sky is so incredibly blue. And as I looked up, I knew it would stay blue--no airplanes in that sky. It was ironic to think that such a sky was actually threatening to America on that day.
That night, as I lay alone in bed, I listened to the radio. Such unity I had never heard in the response of Congress and other people who were interviewed. I knew that one day I would be telling my own children about that day.
One of my greatest concerns was about my friends. When I realized that terrorists had targeted the United States that morning, my first prayer was for it not to be anyone Chinese. I knew the fallout would be great against whatever race of people that was involved, and I did not want my own family to suffer persecution. After the race of people was determined to be middle eastern, I feared for my friends. One of my friends--a Palastinian Christian--was harrassed that day. She feared for her life. Another friend of Moroccan origin, was afraid too (and even after these five years, she is afraid to admit that she is from Morocco). It was heartbreaking to hear of the violent response that some people committed because of their fear in the days following 9/11.
On Wednesday night, at prayer meeting, our pastor had fully grasped the events of the preceding day. He sang a song for us.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.
"Be Still, My Soul"
by Katharina A. von Schlegel
trans. Jane L. Borthwick