A thank you, 14 years later

thankyoublogThe days leading up to the anniversary of September 11th always feel a bit like a reunion. Revisiting emotions from 14 years ago… the terror, numbness, shock and panic all pool together in my mind’s eye with vivid visions of…

The call from my brother to turn on the news
Crawling up the stairs to get Eddie
A silent Colorado church filled with people
The pizza Kirsten brought us for dinner
The unsteady tone of my father’s voice
The 25 hour car ride back home to New Jersey
The eerie, empty streets of my hometown
Sleeping at my sister’s with my parents and siblings
Waiting for John to call and tell us he had survived

All of us gathered in the family room to tell my nieces and nephews that their father wasn’t coming home. The cries and moans that filled the room after I spoke.

This thank you is because now when I reflect on that time 14 years ago, it is impossible for me single out these horrific visions, because they are unfailingly linked with memories of…

Cups of coffee left at the front door
My sister’s dining room table covered in cards
Streets lined with flags
Father Capik running out of Holy Communion at the memorial mass
Lasagna, lasagna, lasagna
Strangers’ hugs in the grocery store
Rides being organized for soccer practice
Cookies delivered in a shoebox
Four pumpkins appearing on the front steps
My sister’s house filled with friends
Phone calls from dawn to dusk
Funds set up and bills paid for
Her kids being taken out for ice cream
The lawn mowed and leaves raked
Milk and eggs delivered before we awoke
And on and on and on…

The kindness shown to my sister’s family in the days, weeks, months and years after the terror attacks on our country shifted my families understanding of community and compassion in ways that can not be measured or explained. Heartworks is a daily, public thank you to each and every person who reached out to the families of September 11th through prayer, a gesture, an offering or act of kindness. Through my witnessing of the compassion shown following the attacks, and the daily participation of Heartworkers over the past ten years, I have come to understand that every single act of kindness is an exemplification of human hands being instructed by the invisible mystery of the universe to show us two truths:

That although suffering is interwoven into the human experience, we are not alone and we are deeply loved.

Because of the response led by first responders, our military and every day citizens, the paralyzing memories of 14 years ago are coated with love, and it is this love that makes the anniversaries tolerable. Thank you for this and for so much more.

Reflection: Please pray today for all the suffering in the world and honor it by not sweating the small stuff. Gain perspective by revisiting your experience in September of 2001 and live the way you vowed you would, if even for a day.