I remember where I was when I heard about the attacks on the Twin Towers. I remember watching it on the Today Show. Matt and Katie. Katie and Matt. The image was forever burned into my head -- the Towers, smoke billowing from them like two oversized smoke stacks on a warehouse.
I remember hesitantly going to my U.S. Government class that day. I didn't want to leave the dorm room. I wanted to just stay and watch it all. I started to class, the sun bright in the sky, but the mood was somber, as people here and there started to find out the news.
I remember sitting in my seat, front row, middle section, third seat from the left. I remember my teacher coming in, starting up the lesson, only to stop not even five minutes later. He was speechless, heartbroken and confused. I'll remember his words forever, "I just can't teach government when all of this is going on."
He dismissed us, and I trekked back to my room. There I found out two more planes had crashed.
I remember just four years before I was there at The Towers. I stayed in the hotel at the World Trade Center on a choir trip to the big city. I remember being enamored with the fact that we didn't have to go outside to get on the subway. And I remember being overwhelmed by how big it all was.
I remember going to the Statue of Liberty two years later, for the second time, and looking back at Manhattan, the towers literally towering over everything. It was that one mark of the skyline that was unmistakable.
This summer was my first time going back to New York City after the attacks. Just like they say, the skyline wasn't the same. At all. There was a big whole in the sky.
Before, everywhere you looked, there were the Towers. It was like it was NYC's own little compass, helping you to navigate the concrete jungle. But this time, there were no Towers. The compass was gone. And to a tourist, all sense of direction was gone.
It was my first time to actually go to Ground Zero. We walked around, Kumar (our tour guide) spitting out facts and stories. Finally, we reached this huge window in the middle of the plaza that looked out onto the construction site. Where there used to be towers that seemed to go up into the sky without end, there was now dirt, steel beams scattered about, and various construction equipment.
Then Kumar told us a story that I'll never forget. He said that when he was little, he used to get made fun of and beat up at school. That why most of his stories started with, "I remember this one day, when I was skipping school..." (No worries. God got him. He was saved one day while skipping school.). He said on the days when he would have a bad day at school, his mom (who raised him and his brother alone after his dad died) would hug him tight, take him to the window and they would stare out at the unmistakable Twin Towers.
She would point out the blinking light on the top and tell him that as long as that blinking light is there, everything would be okay. That was Kumar's sign of hope. Then he told us about the first time he went down to Ground Zero after the attacks. How there was just a big hole in the sky. And how that blinking light was no longer there.
Everywhere we went, Kumar would point to a place in the skyline and say, "Right there, where there is nothing but sky? It used to be nothing but towers."
It was so interesting to hear his point of view, to see St. Paul's where the workers would go to sleep on their "off" shift, and to see the work that had been done already and the miles and miles of work there still was to go.
The memorial is set to be complete in 2013. That's four years from now. Can you imagine?
September 11 will never be the same for this country. And especially for my generation. Sure we'll go about our lives, doing what we do. But like our parents remember where they were when they saw the moon landing or when they heard that JFK was shot or when the Challenger exploded, we will always remember 9/11.
But with that, I'll always remember that God always works things out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. We don't always know what that purpose is, but the good thing about that is that we don't have to.
Because we aren't in control.