A month ago, we drove down to Charleston, West Virginia to visit Henry’s Grandpa, Edwin, for his 101st birthday. We spent less than 24 hours in Charleston, had two nasty encounters with hotel guests, and on our way down encountered something so moving that I’ve thought about it often since then.
I can’t turn on the radio right now because I don’t want to hear any more endless talk about Osama Bin Laden’s death. I heard half an hour yesterday morning and that was enough. I can’t lie and say that I didn’t immediately feel a sense of rightness, the way you can’t help but do when the movie villain gets his just desserts. Later, I felt ashamed that was all I had felt and now, sickened by all the talk, I feel truly grossed-out by this country’s media coverage. “Grossed-out” is not strong enough a word for so many wrong events in which so many nations have been involved leading up to this man’s death. I can’t tell you how much it grieved me to hear that some of his family members were killed with him. I know this won’t reach many people, but I wish our “enemies” – if that’s what they are – could know that not ALL Americans are dancing and celebrating at Bin Laden’s death. I’m not saying Bin Laden didn’t need to be captured and I realize there was almost no chance he was going to “come quietly,” but I wish this country could go about it with grim faces instead of glee. And I feel that the less talk about it, the better it would be for our own souls and our appearance to other nations.
I’m not going to do a “where were you?” thing about 9/11. It doesn’t really matter. I felt like I couldn’t take it all in; couldn’t feel sad enough for what the situation warranted. In a way, the events that have followed 9/11 have forced on us all a kind of mourning even if we couldn’t feel it at the time. I feel really thankful for documentaries like “Restrepo” – of which I have to admit I haven’t seen all – which are doing real reporting about what our soldiers are experiencing during this “war on terror.” We are being impacted, whether we know it or not. I just wonder sometimes about this country. We have an awful lot of freedoms we take for granted. And abuse…
I was driving the stretch to Dayton. We’d just merged onto I-70 going East when I saw several fire trucks and emergency vehicles parked behind a solid wall of people lining a bridge over the highway and facing East. I made a comment about how strange it was and how a horrible accident must have happened in the West-bound lanes. But then the same thing repeated itself two bridges farther East and then every bridge after that. Soon we began passing clumps of people lining the highway in fields and people’s back yards – all looking East. We turned on the AM channels, hoping to hear word of what was coming, the anticipation of what we would see building. We started to speculate: was it troops returning home? Some sort of rally? In all our excitement, we missed the actual reason for it all. Two news helicopters flanked a battalion of police motorcycles followed closely by a semi truck towing a huge I-beam on a flatbed covered by an American flag. Then, for almost the entire ride to Dayton, we passed thousands and thousands of people on motorcycles. Several of them had M.I.A P.O.W flags on the back. A few were towing coffins. We were stumped. It wasn’t until Henry called his stepdad to have him Google it that we realized the I-beam was from the World Trade Center and was being escorted by an honor guard of almost 10,000 riders from Ground Zero to a new monument in Indianapolis.
When I heard what Harold was saying on the other end of the line, I started to cry. I’m still trying to figure out why I was so moved by that honor guard, or by seeing a piece of rubble from the 9/11 attacks. I know I felt a lot more on that drive on I-70 than I ever had in the days and weeks following September 11th, 2001. It certainly seemed like a much more appropriate expression than celebrating the death of a man. Seen through the lens of my child’s life, the future makes me quake. What will happen in his lifetime if these last 10 years have been so full of war and hatred and natural disaster and poverty? What will the next 10 be like; the next 30? How about when I’m no longer there to protect him?
All I know is that I have a renewed conviction not to imbibe America’s zeitgeist as if it were the Gospel. What are we if our belief in a Lord who literally forgave and had pity on his enemies as He was being tortured and put to death for them does not lead us to live counter-cultural lives; to pray for the men who would drive airplanes into our cities and hope for their salvation? Because as I’ve been editing this I’ve realized I don’t want to shame anyone, I should say that it’s only because Christ forgave us as He was dying that we have been given the power to forgive our enemies. We don’t have to manufacture it. Christ Himself is our well. Thank God.