Monday, September 11, 2006

God Moves In Mysterious Ways

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I don’t understand the mind of God. He is able to create the most precious thing: life. He gives us strength to suffer the consequences of our actions or, even harder, the consequences of the actions of others. He allows us to suffer death, sometimes quickly – sometimes long and excruciating. Never was this more present in my mind five years ago, the day our world came crashing down.

That dreadful day did not begin as a horror. I had just dropped my daughter off for kindergarten and was starting to play with my baby boy when the phone rang. Both my parents were on the line. This call, you need to understand, was something that stands out in and of itself. My parents did not live near me and we usually only talked once a month, if that. Not for lack of love or anything; it’s just the way our family has always worked.

When I answered the phone, my dad started talking about something immediately. “How are you doing? What do you think about it? I can’t imagine that being in that accident. How are they going to put it out so high up in the sky? Have you ever seen so much smoke?”

“Dad, what are you talking about?!” was my question as my mind was reeling and coming up with a complete blank. My parents ask strange things sometimes, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out to what my dad was referring.

“Don, she doesn't know…” was my mom’s interjection. “She doesn't have TV. I forgot.”

“Don’t know what?” I asked a little jokingly because in my family I’m the last to figure anything out or hear the news. I would have been the last to figure out that I was prego if it weren’t for all the morning sickness.

“Sha, a plane full of passengers just crashed into the World Trade Center. Everyone on board died and they don’t know how many are hurt or dead inside,” my mom revealed.

“What? Where’s the World Trade Center?” I asked, trying to put it all together. (I never said that historical land marks were my forte.)

“New York City. I can’t believe you haven’t heard about this yet.” Then they explained all that they knew. During the call, my mom exclaimed, “Don, look there’s another one! It’s going to hit again! Oh, it’s going to happen again!”

I signed off quickly, grabbed my son and ran clubhouse to see for myself all the news reports. I arrived to witness the replay of the plane hitting the south tower. These were not accidents. It couldn’t be. This was my first realization that I was witnessing evil firsthand.

Never have I been so confused, angry, struck, astonished and sick. Outraged and full of sorrow for everyone on the planes, in the buildings, on the ground, the families of everyone involved, I rocked and prayed to God for all those people… all those people. I wept bitter tears and tasted bile as I sat and watched the gruesomeness unfold. My son, as he watched with confusion at my sudden emotions, leaned his head over onto my lap and just looked up at me with a smile. I picked him up and held him close, thanking God for the bit of goodness in my lap.

As I watched the people fall from the stories (later to find out that they were jumping with no hope of life), as shots of people covered in fear and sometimes blood were shown fleeing from the buildings, as reports about the Pentagon attack came streaming in, there was a sad note about a crashed plane in the fields of Pennsylvania. This time the reporters hailed the bravery of the passengers since word went out quickly that those on board had called loved ones to say goodbye and to stop the terrorists from causing more chaos and mass destruction. That glimpse of true heroism was just the tip of valor that was about to be displayed.

And then the towers collapsed. Fear was evident as cameras captured the flight of those who made it out alive. Dust and debris exploded, steel bars and cement flew through the air and the realization that thousands of people were still inside brought men to their knees. A silence covered the city and the dust and smoke darkened the sun. It did seem that God was removed from it all.

And then, as the powder cleared and settled, we saw people were streaming away of the wreckage, firemen were making their way to those who needed help. Policemen, EMT’s, common ordinary folks came to the aid others. Men carried men, women carried men. Those left dumbstruck were led through the settling dirt by those who could see more clearly. No separation of religion, race or political views were valued as someone capable lent a hand to someone who needed it. People were suddenly equalized and all that mattered was helping the people around them.

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God was not removed after all. He was stirring the heart of men to join together, whether they were at Ground Zero or in a store 2,000 miles away or sitting on the couch in front of the TV. People started to rally. Blood donations were set up quickly and people waited in line for HOURS without a grumble or complaint. Food banks received donations by the tons. Salvation Army was flooded with calls for contributions so that someone could help SOMEONE involved in this monstrous event. Parents picked up their children, took them home and held them close, telling them that they were so loved… so loved and valued, as I did with my daughter. Churches opened their doors and invited anyone to come in as a place of sanctuary, a place to sit with friends and strangers alike to talk, to pray, to sing, to cry, to find peace in that ugly, chaotic day.

President Bush, after being in office not even a year, was running through the necessary evasion tactics since they thought that part of the plot was to remove him, was briefed and had sifted through reports and had made a most eloquent speech that included the proper reaction to this act of terror: “The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” Later he asked the American people to join him in saying thanks to all the folks who had been fighting hard to rescue our fellow citizens and to join him in saying a prayer for the victims and their families. Later he spoke about how the resolve of our great nation was being tested. “But make no mistake,” President Bush declared. “We will show the world that we will pass this test. God bless.”

And bless us He did. The goodness of humanity was evident to all. Thousands of people toiled night and day for long periods of time for the hope of discovering survivors among the wreckage of any of the wreckage sights. Strangers spoke more kindly one to another. Families became more solid. Congressmen, religious and non-religious alike, who normally bicker and nitpick over the smallest of items, stood on the steps of one of the great institutions and prayed together and sang a prayer too: God Bless America. Together. No one shouted, “Separation of church and state!” “You can’t do that!” “You are stepping on my right to not listen to that!” or any other excuse that you may hear today from a small faction of non-believers. That group of “foes” sang together in unity, in agreement, in the belief that America, all of us, needed God right then and there.

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As the days passed, I noticed a sense of patriotism that I had never really seen before – that I have never seen since. Flags waved proudly on poles, on houses, on cars. Soldiers carried themselves with a sense of proud purpose, and we honored them for their protection and service. We talked about America – the land of the free, the home of the brave, the people who will not cower to any other hand. We sang the old patriotic songs and actually understood the meaning behind the words... and we liked them. The new recordings that came out were a little sweeter. Movies that were horror films tanked. There was too much reality of horror in the aftermath that came.

Years passed; people forgot the time when we all drew together with a common purpose. The bickering on the Hill began again. People pushed the blame on everyone else. Even our newly elected president was painted as the perpetrator and the mastermind behind this horrific event, despite it all being at the hands of another group. Fingers pointed every direction just for the need to have someone to blame because if blame were placed somewhere, everyone was sure to feel better. The suing ensued, with the blame going most erroneously our government. Now everyone had to pay for the lives of those who happen to be in a places that were attacked. Most people have just gotten caught up into the peripherals of life, rather than remembering what we had found five years ago: unity, hope, a sense of comraderie with our fellow man.

I guess this post goes along with my Thursday post. Most of the time we can’t see the big picture; but no matter the situation, the pain, the shock, the confusion, God is God: the I AM who was before the marking of time, He who will be after the end of all ages. He is present in all things good or ugly. Although we may not see His hand, that does not mean that He is not guiding, pulling or carrying us along the way.

I’ll never know the reason that God allowed such a catastrophe to occur. Maybe that is the point. I don’t need to know why; what I need to do is to cling to the truth that He was with us then and He is with us now, still wanting me to rely on Him in any event. And, just as importantly, I need to pass such a life lessons on to my children: to hold onto God through all times of joy or sorrow and to trust that He was, is and always will be.