Even if we didn't lose someone in the World Trade Center attack, the Shanksville crash, or the attack on the Pentagon, we all lost something. And we gained something else.
I was reminded of this when I flew to Boston not long ago.
I smiled a greeting to my seat mate, but he didn't speak. Wedged into the spot by the window with his long legs bent uncomfortably, he sat in a space not built for his six-foot-something frame.
I watched as he tapped out a quick text message on his iPhone, tucked it into his pocket, and then thought better of it.
"Hi Honey," he said to the voice mail on the other end. "I'm getting ready to take off. I sent you a text, but I just wanted to say I love you. . . . I'll let you know when I arrive. . . " His voice trailed off, and he ended the call.
It was a typical post-9-11 phone call; one we now all make before we fly.
The bravado of the Reagan years--that wonderfully secure certainty that we lived in a powerful, untouchable country--is gone. Flying's no longer fun. Or carefree. Or easy.
On this plane, the presence of the air marshal reminded us that our planes had been hijacked and used against us. So did the wanding, the pat down, and the armed guards with fierce-looking dogs.
Now when we travel, we part more intentionally. We don't leave without considering that we might never return. We say,"1 love you," more easily. We hug a little tighter. We wave until we're out of sight, and we pray.
We say the words that are most important, to each other and to God, and we rejoice exceedingly when, in God's mercy, we are reunited. Every safe arrival is a gift we no longer take for granted.
Nine-eleven changed us, but maybe not all for the worst. We lost something, but we gained something, too.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. (Prov. 27:1)
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
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