This is a reflection I gave at a memorial service on the first anniversary of 9/11
A year ago tonight, the skies were silent.
A year ago tonight, we looked up with fear.
We are used to the skies turning against us here in the Midwest: of sudden storms boiling up and fierce winds blowing a path of destruction ahead of them.
A year ago tonight, there was a different storm that struck us, struck our hearts, struck our entire nation.
Many of us have known sudden loss, of friends, of family lost in an instant, due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A year ago tonight, perhaps we all felt at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We spent a day in disbelief in front of our televisions, wondering why, aching for answers, horrified that so many people died before our eyes so quickly.
While the skies were silent for three days, we heard the stories: stories of tragedy, stories of anger, stories of good fortune of those who should have been there but weren’t. Stories of those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We mourned for the dead, we mourned for the families. We mourned while the skies were silent, and we mourn one year later.
Today the names of the dead were read. They are gone but they are not unremembered. Their loss is a loss for all of us; their memories are memories of life.
One year ago the skies were silent. It is in silence that we best remember, in silence we best reflect, in silence we best weigh our losses, be they personal or public.
Our silence a year ago ended. Silence does not have the last word. A tornado’s damage is repaired; lives are rebuilt in hope. We can look at the sky in wonder rather than fear.
Our reading tonight gives us hope. Paul says: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That kinship is what holds us together; we do not walk alone. Our God is with us; Our Savior is with us; the Guidance of the Spirit is with us. God may not have been able to prevent the storm, but God weeps with us, mourns with us, comforts us. Our God is our partner in our sorrows as surely as our God is partner in our joys. Our God shares our tears and blesses them.
Today, a girl named Brittany Clark read a poem at the World Trade Center site. She is the daughter of a chef who worked in the South Tower Restaurant. She said:
“This poem makes me feel like my daddy is speaking to me: I gave you this one thought to keep. I am with you still, I do not sleep. I am a 1,000 winds that blow. I am the diamond glimpse on the snow. I am a sunlight on ripening grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds and circled flights. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not think of me as gone, I am with you still in each new dawn.”
As we continue through our lives, individually and together, our God is with us in every new dawn, and nothing can separate us from his love.