The Act of Remembrance
My memory of September 11, 2001 is vivid. I was in third grade at Summit Hill Elementary School. My morning began as it always did, with what we called “specials” and that day happened to be music class which meant we had a long trek from the third grade hallway, in the back of the school, to the music room at the front. As my class made our way through the hallways I noticed my teacher looking distressed as she exchanged whispers with other teachers along the way talking about what they saw on the news. News traveled fast that morning.
It wasn’t until I got home from school that day that I knew something was wrong. Rather than walking home from my bus stop with my friends, my dad met me at the end of my culdesac. He had been evacuated from his sky-rise office building in Atlanta and told to go home for the day because of rumors that other cities could also be under attack.
In the days following the attacks of 9/11, I remember making posters in my garage with my friends that read “God Bless America” and overhearing conversations between my parents, who were born and raised on Long Island, about family members and family friends who were in the city that fateful day.
While I did not lose family members or friends in the World Trade Center or Pentagon that day many, many people did.
Twenty one years later, whenever 9/11 comes up in conversation, it triggers stories similar to mine. People remember what they were doing, where they lived at the time and who they were with when they heard the news that rattled America to its core and grieved every one of us.
Memories are what distinguish us as human beings. We remember good times and bad, times of joy and times of sorrow, times of suffering and times of prospering. Some memories are nostalgic, while others we wish we could forget. But remembering, or the act of remembrance, is something every people group has done since the beginning of time.
We remember for the sake of tradition, legacy and education. Remembrance has a place in the heart of God and because of that, our hearts. Upon the Israelites’ release from Egypt, God commanded them to practice remembrance in the form of a Passover celebration to commemorate the day God brought the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus commanded His disciples to do the same at His final passover meal when He said “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20).
Today, when we practice remembrance as a country, we are honoring and dignifying those who lost their lives and those who lost family and friends. We glean wisdom from our past that can help shape our future and ultimately remember that we are desperate for God’s saving grace and His redemption.
Shared suffering has a way of drawing people together regardless of what may have divided them before. According to PEW Research, 62% of Americans felt patriotism toward their country in the wake of September 11. Twenty one years later, sharing the stories of where we were that day draws us together again and dignifies what we once experienced together.
So today, wherever you are, take a moment to share what you remember of that day, if you weren’t born yet, ask someone to share their memory with you. Pray for the people who lost family members and friends, as they are still grieving the loss of those they loved most and through the lens of the gospel, look forward to a day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).