If you’d like I want to give you the opportunity to share with me where you where when 9/11 happened. Tell your story in the comment box at the bottom of this post.
It was first period when I sluggishly dragged myself into class. Bible College, first year, Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. Moments before class was scheduled to begin there was commotion in the halls. I watched a girl run by our room with her hand covering her mouth. I followed. In the main office was a TV set up and the planes flying into the World Trade Towers on repeat. They set up a second TV in our class. Another girl completely emotionally destroyed began crying out undiscernable gibberish as she ran through the doors of the building and towards the dorms. I ran and caught up to her. I tried to calm her down. I tried to figure out what was wrong. Yes, you read that correctly. What was occurring hadn’t really hit me. The gravity of it I mean. It might as well have been a bombing in the Gaza Strip or London England or Minsk. To this day I feel guilty about that fact. Have I grown numb to the terrors of the world? How close to home does a terror have to be to be something that rocks my emotional and ideological world? Should I feel different about a bombing that happens in America or Canada than I do about a bombing that happens, say, in the Middle East?
Of course the closer an evil is, the more devastating it is to each and everyone one of us.
In the latest CT magazine, an article titled “The Gospel at Ground Zero”, Russell Moore asks:
“Might seeing those images of falling towers hourly on the video-clips of the talking-head cable programs make them seem commonplace, much like the White House explosion from Independence Day, of the Statue of Liberty buried up to her neck at the close of Planet of the Apes?”
Try not to hate me for my apathy that instance when I tried to calm that girl down. You might say that the whole ordeal seemed so unreal. Was this really happening? People jumping from Towers? Airliners highjacked? The U.S.A. closing it’s borders effectively making small Canadian towns the tarmac of the world? Is this for real?
9/11 has changed my thinking in many ways. It brought the subject of evil to the forefront of my mind and made me challenge my assumptions about God. 9/11 reminded me that people are dying – for real – in similar attacks all the time in different places around the world. It reminded my that my comfort in Canada can be taken away by any number of things nobody has yet even thought about.
More than this, it challenged my assumptions about the cross. Another confession: Mel Gibsons movie, Passion of the Christ, didn’t emotionally affect me all that much. I don’t like blood and gore and so would prefer not to see it twice. But when my friends are coming out sniffling and teary-eyed. I felt like nothing but guilt. Why wasn’t this movie “affecting” me like everybody else.
My wife recently said that she had to stop watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit because it was desensitizing her to the horrors of real life. After 9/11, after the Passion of the Christ, I picked up Elie Wiesel’s book, Night. In it Wiesel describes his experience in a Nazi camp where babies where casually tossed – while alive and screaming – into the furnace. He writes:
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of my desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
I suspect that to many, many thousands of people, Elie’s lament now belongs to them. Our prayers today go out to all the victims of 9/11, remembering the heroes from the average Joe to the policemen, firefighters, and countless others.