I saw something last night that caused tears to just stream down my face. It was somberly, maybe one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The whole day was somber, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This date is now a euphemism for what we still can hardly grasp – that our nation came under attack by 19 men, driven by some kind of hateful ideology that could justify their driving planes full of innocent men, women and children at high speed, full of fuel, into some of our iconic landmarks. I lived not too far from NYC then, I remember the incalculable shock as events unfolded quickly. I remember when the towers INCREDIBLY collapsed, and the aching realization that thousands and thousands of souls were turned to dust in seconds. This is still unimaginable to me.
Those towers were a part of my own life. I toured the 78th floor in college, wearing a hard hat with a team sponsored by the Port Authority, for a project we were doing to design the space on that floor. My twin girls dressed up as the twin towers one Halloween. My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary at the Windows on the World restaurant in the North tower. We would often take visitors to see these amazing buildings. If you were close to them you could not see their size for how hard it was to crane your neck directly up to see such height. One needs to understand these buildings were packed with offices and people on twin levels of 110 floors each! Estimates are that at capacity these buildings held between 10-25,000 people each on a working day. This is what I was thinking about as the towers pancaked into dust and ash. It is absolutely incredible then that the actual death toll in those two towers, not counting the firemen who came inside, was only just over 2000! We don’t celebrate this number as we do not and cannot celebrate this day, but it is important to mark it. It is crucial to try to understand what events like this can teach us. There were several things we did yesterday and contemplated yesterday that helped us to piece together some meaning from such wanton evil. Yes, evil, and we are naïve to think it could be called anything else but what it is.
What tuned and melted my heart yesterday, however, was a program I saw at the end of the day. On it was a slide show of images. Dianne Sawyer has been apparently marking each year since our 9/11 by gathering the babies born to widows, most of them the widows of the brave firefighters who ran into the buildings. Over 3000 children lost their fathers this sad day. What ABC had done was to quietly show, one after another, photos of the fathers and their 10 year old children. There on their faces is a mark of connection. These children never knew their Dads, but their faces show their Dads. This is such a picture, in varying kinds of uniqueneses of what it means to be “in the image of my father.” These Dads are gone, but their children carry them in their own DNA. It is a most beautiful thing.
My soul knew it before my mind even understood. My body responded before I knew what was happening. This was beauty, and beauty often carries such an ache of recognition and longing.
Vincent Van Gogh said in one of his letters to his brother, that ‘the greatest artist is the one who works in human flesh.’ I have often thought of this, for it is true. We can’t do this kind of art, but the One who said that we all are “made in His image” can and He does. Look at these faces and maybe you too will weep at the wonder!