Wednesday, September 11, 2013
A Millennial Remembers 9.11
On September 11, 2001, I was a junior at Iowa State University. I woke up late for class that day, and ran in and out of my fraternity's kitchen to grab a bite to eat. At the counter sat our fraternity mom (60 some years of age) transfixed to the television screen like normal. She made mention of planes, buildings, and terrorism. I looked at the screen for all of 5 seconds and then headed on my way.
I'm not proud of it, but world news did not mean much then. As a senior in high school, I sloughed off a massacre at Columbine. I could see its affect on others, but to be honest, I didn't get it. Three years later, a tragedy in New York was simply news that did not affect me. I jumped on my bicycle and headed to class where something significant was at hand...learning Classical Greek.
I think it was on my bike that things began to sink in. First, I noticed a holy hush over the campus. There was a sense of paralysis felt by the professors. By noon, I knew that the world was no longer "out there," but next door. That night I joined hundreds of other classmates in prayer in the center of campus. Candles were lit; prayers were offered; and cries for peace and justice were heard.
I grew up a bit that day. Though my first reaction was obliviousness and self-absorption, by the day's end I realized one person or just a half-dozen people can be the instigators of great evil or great good.
I'm shamed by my first reactions, but thankful that they were not my last reflections. Millennials are notorious for not growing up. I think the reason is that it's easier to be self-consumed. It's easier to focus our lives on the newest I-phone arrival rather than on a Middle East crisis, a world hunger crisis, and a sexually transmitted disease crisis. But the day we grow up is the day we actually contemplate the pain, sorrow, and anguish of "the other."
9-11 was one of the first days in my life that 'the other' became a real person, a person like me. People who were just a year older than me had walked into work but never walked out. People flying on airplanes for fun and vacation met their Maker that day. It could have been me.
I wish 9-11 never happened. I wish no tragedy ever to strike this country or another again. But I know that in a fallen world, sinful people will bring more destruction. My hope for myself, my fellow Millennials, and the generations before and after us won't linger so long in obliviousness and self-absorption. Rather, let us care for the other, or as the wisest man who ever walked this planet said: "Love your neighbor as yourself."