Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where I Was

I slept through September 11, and I was actually in New York City.

That may be an overstatement. Judge for yourselves. Here are the facts:

On September 10, 2001, I was back in NYC for my second year at the Best Seminary In the World (back when its motto was "The Church's Rule-Breaker for Over 150 Years"). I was a hard working student in seminary. I was older than many of my classmates, and I was (and always am) absolutely enthralled with the learning process. So I wasn't partying hearty... mostly. But at the beginning of the semester, the night before classes began, it seemed like a nice opportunity to let down my hair. So I went to the pub (loosely defined) and had some wine with my good, good buds. And I think I shot some pool (reeeeeeeeallly badly). And I went back to my room and probably surfed the internet for too long. So I probably collapsed into bed at about 2 AM.

In the morning I was able to sleep in... no classes for me until the afternoon. I did notice an awful lot of sirens, though, and the sound of fire trucks barreling down Broadway. It was loud, really loud. Finally at about 10:45 AM I walked out of my room to find my roommate and her 24 year old daughter sitting, stricken, in front of the TV. I could see their faces, though not the TV screen.

My roommate said, "We're under attack."

I think I said "What?"

She continued, "Planes have been flown into both towers of the World Trade Center, and both towers have collapsed."

I paused, then looked at her and said, "I'm still dreaming. I'm dreaming."

She said, "I wish you were."

It was only then that I walked far enough into the room to see the screen of the little TV, with its endless loop of the impacts of the planes, first one and then the other, and the collapse of the towers, first the other and then the one. I ran to the shower, where I sobbed loudly for about two minutes. I wondered whether my children were afraid, so far away at home... were they thinking I was in danger? I wondered about my (then) husband. Would he be angry if something happened to me as I pursued this calling to ministry?

As one, the entire student body and every staff faculty member-- the whole seminary community-- migrated to the chapel, where we prayed and sang songs of lament for several hours. People from the streets wandered in, looking for a place to pray, and we welcomed them into that mourning community. As the impromptu service ended we poured out onto the streets to join the long queues at the hospitals, opening our arms to give blood that was never needed. As we did ash started falling-- even where we were, 6 miles uptown from Ground Zero. Bits of charred... we didn't know what, exactly. Paper, fuselage, bone. It fell around us. It settled in a light layer on the seminary quad.

The city was shut down, and shut off from everything. The bridges were closed, the tunnels were closed, there was no way out and home for those so inclined.

Over the next weeks, I witnessed a tenderness among my fellow New Yorkers (because I was no longer a commuting seminary student, you see, I was a New Yorker). We looked at one another instead of looking away, on the buses, waiting for the subway trains. We looked at one another with tenderness and love, and thought, "We have been through this thing."

Mine is not one of the big or important September 11 stories. I was just one of 9 million people who lived, who saw.


more cows than people said...


Pastor Peters said...

Thanks Mags.

I am missing NYC a lot today. Perhaps I'm also missing the best seminary in the world. I hadn't thought about that until I remembered our moments of prayer on this day (and others) in seminary. Thanks for sharing this. I needed to connect to someone who was there.

Diane said...

I would love to study at that place some time.
and it is an important memory -- by one of the 9 million.

johnieb said...

For most of my life, I said "I have no important memories of Vietnam", but now I know all memories are important to God.

May we all know God's blessing