Where were you when the world stopped turning, on that September day?
Country music star Allan Jackson asked this question in a song that still resonates 20 years after that fateful morning.
It’s hard for me to fathom today will mark two decades since the attacks that so fundamentally changed our country. Sometimes it feels like it was only moments ago, but in many ways it also feels like forever.
The subject came up recently with one of my 13-year-old sons and I found myself struggling to explain how different the world feels today to those of us who grew up in the years before that infamous morning.
I was working a later shift at the Daily Corinthian that day and I remember clearly the terror I felt when I turned on the television just in time to watch the second plane hit the towers. I remember driving to work with the news on the radio and hearing about the attack on the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashing in Pennsylvania.
I remember fear, confusion and an intense sense of heartbreak over the lives cut short and the families left to mourn.
I also remember the powerful feeling of unity of those days following the attacks as we were all drawn together as Americans in a common mix of emotions and love for our country and for those men and women who responded to the attacks and stood ready to defend our freedoms.
I tried to explain this week to my son how it felt and how different the world he’s growing up in is from the one I remember before that day. I don’t know if I did a great job of getting it across, because it’s something I still don’t completely comprehend myself. Even now, with 20 years to look back across it’s hard to understand how we got to where we are.
We’ve gone from feeling unified as Americans to calling names and choosing up sides with little room for compromise or middle ground. We’ve left behind the feeling of brotherhood across lines of race, religion and ideology for a brave new world where we feel compelled to hate each other because we disagree.
As I struggle with all of this I find myself going back to the lyrics from Jackson’s song.
“But I know Jesus and I talk to God, and I remember this from when I was young, Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us, And the greatest is love.”
Twenty years after that horrible day changed history, very few things make much sense and some days it’s hard to hold out hope for a brighter tomorrow. Still, I have to believe there’s hope to be found when we remember our commonalities far outweigh our differences and on the darkest of days hope can be found in the “greatest” thing He gave us – love.