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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Darkness and the Light

It was early in the school day for me. Class had only begun a short while ago and the room was quieting down for the teacher. Being in Oklahoma we were used to thunderstorms with loud booming sounds. But today it was blue clear skies and spring was all around. So, it came as quite a shock when the whole school was rattled by a thunder like echo in the distance. We weren't terrified, as I said thunder is a fact of life for us. Curious is more like it. Moments later one of the teachers came running into the room and said, "There was a bomb set off in Oklahoma city." Now we were scared. We were used to the death and devastation of tornadoes, but a bomb!? My home town is an hour north of OKC and yet we felt that blast. Worst of all we felt the impact it had on the lives of everyone in the country. We were only in fifth grade and our world was shaken. My father was supposed to teach a class of Marines at a Vo-Tech days after the incident. Those Marines and their commanding officer were all at the Murrah building during the explosion. The commanding officer was the only one to survive.

Fast forward six years. We have moved to East Tennessee. The memories of April 19th are faded but never gone. Settled back into the comfort of protection we feel as Americans, life has gone on. I get up on September eleventh as I do every day and look for my brother and mother to start making breakfast. Then my father calls. We don't often have the television on during this time of the morning, but he was telling us to turn on the news right now. Mom is frantic, I am getting scared. She turns on the television and there it is. A sight that has been burned into my mind and heart like nothing else. One plane has plowed into the Trade Towers, smoke rising up into the sky. A cold sweat spreads across my body and I am unable to process what is happening. I can only think that it was a terrible accident, a pilot committed a serious error. The idea of terrorism hasn't even crossed my mind yet. Then it happened. The news was live back then, no delay, just reality. That second plane plows directly into the building and my heart sinks to the floor. Oh my God. I cannot imagine why anyone would do such a thing. Then the pentagon is hit. Then another plane is crashed into a field for God only knows what reason. Mom and my brother go to make breakfast, she does not want to watch anymore, my brother feels the same. I cannot tear myself away from it. Mesmerized by the spectacle of this, I am breathless as I watch both towering giants plummet to the ground. The cloud of dust and debris exploding outward across the city. Citizens running and crying in pure terror. The camera operators doing all they can to document what is happening without becoming victims themselves.

I have seen death. I have seen destruction. I grew up with it. Living in a natural war zone tempers the soul against the harshness of life. At a young age you have already come to understand dark things when death falls from the sky. NOTHING prepares you for this. Nothing.

Life continues. The enemy did not succeed in its ultimate goal of completely crippling this country. But the scar will remain in our souls so long as we live. That scar reminds us of the despicable tragedy and the images that came from it. But it also reminds us that we cannot live in hatred, anger, or sorrow. The enemy wants that hatred, wants that anger, loves our sorrow. We must look forward, and love one another for tomorrow could be the last day you see your best friend. Don't seek retribution, seek forgiveness and to forgive. Don't count others sins, count your blessings. And always know that no matter how many evil, wicked, terrible people are in this world, there are more that are honorable, respectable, and good. America was touched by evil that day, but it was also touched by the kindness and honor of our allies who came to our aid and offered help in any way they could.

Many souls were lost that day and many people affected. Mourn them, pray for them, help them. But, do not, under any circumstances, only see the darkness and forget the light.  

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