Fifteen years ago, on a morning much like this morning — cool, clear blue sky — the world changed forever. I have never during those fifteen years been able to think about September 11, 2001, without tears, never been able to talk about it without a catch in my throat.
There are many people alive today who don’t remember the helpless confusion and fear of those first hours, those first days. And I find myself wondering, what will be that event for my son? What will be his #NeverForget moment? For my grandparents, it was Pearl Harbor. For my parents, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For me and my generation, it was watching those towers collapse.
What will my son’s great paradigm-shifting tragedy be? What will be the thing that brings tears to his beautiful hazel eyes? What event will divide his life into before and after?
Three months after September 11, these lines were spoken by Gandalf in the movie version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring after Frodo says that he wished none of it had happened:
“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
There are so many things I would change about our time. So many things all of us would change.
But we have only the time that has been given to us.
What shall we do with it?
Despair? Give up? Fall into bitterness and hate?
Friends, we’ve no time for that. We must work. And hope. And love. And pray that God would change hearts.
I do not doubt that there will be a breathtaking tragedy that will someday divide my son’s life into before and after. Neither do I doubt that there will be an after. And that after is what defines us.
So, as we limp to the inevitable close of a contentious and mind-boggling political season, I want each of you to know that I see the image of God in you, and because of that, I have love for you. No matter who you vote for or against, no matter your color of skin, no matter how you got here, no matter what you’ve done, left undone, or will do in the future. And the reason I can love you is because He first loved me.
With the time that has been given to me, I will try to work for the good and fight against the darkness. And when I fail, I will look for forgiveness.