Sunday, September 11, 2011

Keeping Vigil

You have a memory.

You were in a place.

Getting ready for work, eating breakfast, driving. You were watching the Today Show, listening to NPR, sitting in class. You were in an airport, on a plane. You were in the office, you were sending your kids to school.

And then, in the quotidian momentum of a day where the sun was pushing you forward into the familiar steps of a Tuesday morning, you stood still.

Something was happening that began to wrap its cold grip around your lungs until you felt the absence of your breath and the absence of your hallowed American security. Something had made a hole in our impregnable United States.

You own your memory of that moment. There are many millions of them; that moment when we learned of the planes that were plowing through the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, into the soil of Pennsylvania. A surreal pause in the spinning of things.

This morning, on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 I am listening to the memorial service at Ground Zero in New York City. For the past two hours they have read the names of those who died that morning. Each giver of the names is a loved one of the deceased. They read several names then offer a message to their own beloved who was lost.

They are young, those reading the names. Some of them too young.
No, that little boy could not have been alive on that day. He cannot possibly own one of those where-you-were-what-you-were-doing memories that the rest of us have. And indeed he was not.

"Sebastian Gorky," this little boy says into the microphone. "Who I never met because I was in my Mom's belly. I love you, Dad."

So many fatherless.

"Winston Arthur Grant - My father; a good, kind, godly man."
"Geoffrey Hike Hardy - Dad, I'm still learning to cook. I'm working on it. We miss you."
"Joseph Gridlack - His physical presence and bushy mustache are missed. Semper Fi. I hope you dance."
"James Patrick Ladley - Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will stay with me forever."


I remember a blue and empty sky
For so many days
My empty sky
This was our fear - our almost . . .
Such determination to deny that we are changed
But who can look into this empty sky and think
We are not afraid of you
Our lips so close to calling the bluff
Something has changed
Something . . .

The Jewish have a tradition whereby they do not leave the body of a dead person to be alone from the time the spirit departs to the time the body is buried in the earth.
September 11th left so many bodies - not even bodies - remnants. Unidentifiable.
The young Jewish women of local Stern College kept vigil with those remnants for seven months while DNA testing was done to identify remains for internment. They were girls, students, who set up rotations such that no possibly Jewish body was left unattended, day or night, for seven months.

All of it; the terror, the death the heroism, the colossal waste, the fear, the empty skies, tells me to keep vigil with the people God grants me as loved ones in this fragile mortality. Day and night, for years on end, I stay close to the living bodies of those that breathe in my house.

What do you remember? What have you learned?

And consider participating in this project.

1 comment:

aubtobobtolob said...

You my sister of flesh and spirit have a gift, and I am humbled by it.
I own my memory.
My vigil is less white knuckled.
I have lost.
My heart is my Gods.
My Families.
My Countries.
Yet it also belongs to all,
be it hate or love for me, it is theirs as well.