There are events of great importance that we mark in our memories by remembering where we were when we witnessed the event in person or by word of mouth. My mom and dad used to talk about where they were when unlikely hero Bobby Thompson hit a home run against cross town rivals Brooklyn Dodgers giving the New York Giants the pennant. Mom was a Dodger fan and dad a Giants fan. The conversation was animated ‘til the day they died. I can remember hearing President Kennedy was shot from Mrs. Hashagen, my third grade teacher. We were dismissed early that day for fear it was the beginning of a Cold War attack. Despite watching every space launch, I was camping in a field when Neil Armstrong took his small step and giant leap. Those were days of camping without electricity and mobile phones and I didn’t get to actually see it for another week.
Where were you on September 11, 2001? The towers? Downtown? New York City? Another state or country? Wherever you were, I’m guessing you remember with the same crystal clear memory as the sky was a cloudless crystal blue that day. Each of us has a story to tell. The stories all have value wherever you may have been. For those who had physical or highly emotional connections, these stories were painful to tell and painful to hear. I must have lived 9/11 vicariously through other people hundreds of times for five years in my role in the immediate response and long term recovery at Ground Zero. The stories are still told today among strangers in the subway and family at gatherings. Stories of tragedy and heroism; fear and bravery; isolation and community; hatred and love. I would also ask them, “Where are you now?”
“Where are you now?” is a question just as meaningful as “where were you fifteen years ago?” What’s been your journey since that Tuesday? There is a visual from 9/11 that best describes where I am now. Churches throughout the City opened their doors as places of refuge and prayer. One of those churches at the base of a high profile building (and potential target), has a large baptistery as you enter the sanctuary. Hundreds of people came in who were walking away from the collapsed buildings. They were frightened, in a panic and covered in dust and ash. They stopped at the baptistery and washed their hands and faces in the waters. I was reminded of this when a Plymouth member told me his story and his stop at that baptistery. It is at the baptismal font where I find myself today. Bathed in the cleansing and healing waters of baptism and the grace of God poured out in those waters. Where are you now? All are welcome.