In 2001, I moved to Nashville.
I had my own apartment for the first time. I was alone in a city for the first time. Several states and four hours separated me from my parents. I was independent. I was about to turn 23, and I felt grown-up—and nervous, scared, vibrant, happy, excited, and unfocused.
I started grad school in August. I remember the emotions that Sunday night before classes began, the way I felt when I whispered my anxieties to a friend at church. He answered flippantly, without thinking, and I recall wondering if he’d even taken me seriously.
By the time September rolled around, I felt a little more sure of myself—or at least of my routine. In those days, September 11 was just a day. It didn’t have any particular significance.
I did what I normally did in the morning that day. I hadn’t started my job yet, so I didn’t have to dress in business casual and I remember wandering around my apartment getting ready slowly, watching the news, eating breakfast, drying my hair. I remember realizing something big was happening in New York from the news anchors on the CBS Morning Show. I remember standing in front of my TV just watching the footage. I remember watching the second plane fly into the World Trade Center. I remember driving to Vanderbilt by rote, barely thinking, a bit stunned and confused I think. I remember the note on the glass door into the divinity school, black ink on white paper saying something about security and more about expressing love, not hate.
I was scared that day. Confused. My brother called and told me to be careful. I called my mom, but she couldn’t make it better. I went to a service at a local church and read Psalm 37. When I read the things I wrote in my Bible that night, I instantly recall the red cushions in the pews, the shell-shocked expression I couldn’t stop wearing.
The truth is, September 11 still makes me sad, when I stop to think about what happened that day, when I remember the loss, fear, and confusion. The way American flags found their way into everyone’s yard and how proud we all were to be U.S. citizens.
But another part of the truth is, I don’t really think about that day all that often. It’s been almost 10 years. September 11 affected my life, yes, but not in the same way that it affected the lives of survivors or friends and family members of people who died that day. I’m different because of September 11, more wary and less trusting, less innocent and more realistic, more convinced that I’m not guaranteed tomorrow and less convinced that I am truly safe anywhere this side of Heaven.
But I wasn’t there that day. I didn’t wear the dust from the blast in my hair or know that someone I loved was in danger.
I was hundreds of miles away trying to make sense of a world that seemed to be falling apart at the seams. And I couldn’t make sense of it. I still can’t. It isn’t home.
This September 11, I will go with members of my church to work with a local homeless ministry. I’ll practice love instead of hate. I’ll cook and clean and have dinner with friends and celebrate one of best friend’s birthday. I’ll remember, but I’ll also live.
Hate and fear are the easy ways out. Love isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Love has a cost, but I know the One who loved me so much He paid the ultimate cost. So I’ll push my needs aside, I’ll love my neighbor as myself, I’ll live and love and serve and I won’t let hate and fear rule September 11.
September 11 will never be a regular day again. But it doesn’t have to be a day characterized by hatred, fear, and confusion. Let’s make it a day in which we all live out of our love and the love of God.