My 9/11 story is not full of tears or holding loved ones close or any of the heart wrenching details often included in stories of that day.
That’s because I was all of 5 years old on September 11, 2001. The truth is I hardly remember anything from that day. I think that’s the most remarkable thing about that day for me. That I remembered anything at all.
I only have three vivid memories from my early childhood:
The first was a family trip to Alaska when I was 4. All I remember is looking out at more snow than a kid raised in the Oregon willamette valley had ever seen, and a guy playing with a bear.
The second vivid memory is the morning of 9/11. My dad pastors a small church in our small city, and has done that ever since I was 2. Every morning he woke up and went to pray at the church to start his day. Every morning he would come home smelling like his favorite coffee and wearing his tile laying jeans covered in ceramic tile adhesive, and a blue Henley he loved. He‘d have breakfast with us and then he’d head off to work. He still does those things.
I remember that morning because of how different it was. We would always be awake an hour or so before he got home. This time when I woke up he was there. He and my mom and older siblings were huddled around our tiny laptop watching a video in the living room. It was a very Christian home with no TV and back then we hardly watched any videos on our laptop, and especially not at 6:30 in the morning. But there they were, at 6:30 am watching two buildings pouring smoke, with tears in their eyes while everything was deathly quiet. That’s all I remember from that day.
My third and final memory is from an entire year of one radio commercial I’ll never forget. I’m not sure when this aired or even what it was for. When I was a kid we would drive an hour to my doctors appointments to see our family doctor in the town we moved from when I was 2. Every drive up there my mom would listen to Rush Limbaugh all the way up. We would always go to a mini market in that town and get a treat after getting shots or check ups. And every drive back my mom would listen to Rush Limbaugh all the way back.
There was one commercial that played every time on the way there and every time on the way back. Like I said I don’t know what it was for, but I won’t forget the man narrating it as he said “I was with you when you made that last call to your wife telling her you won’t be coming home. I was with you when you ran back in to save one more person”. One day I asked my mom what the commercial was about. She told me it was about 9/11 and God being with the people there that day.
Still to this day whenever I listen to Rush Limbaugh and hear the ending EIB network song I can smell that mini market and see the interior of our blue suburban and hear that commercial playing.
The point of all this is that my memories as a child are few, but full of 9/11. That a single day can create such an impact on a child is a testament to the absolute magnitude of what happened. To younger generations who either weren’t alive, or have little to no memories of that day. When people say never forget it isn’t only a reminder to us to honor those we lost and those heroes who sacrificed their lives and well-being for others.
Never forget means many among us CANNOT ever forget what happened. It’s ingrained in us and apart of us. From those living in the area at the time who lost friends, family, and/or know others who did, to those like me living on the other end of the country, whose 5 year old morning routine was so upended and road trips to the doctor so effected that the memories stick solidly in my mind.
To those of us with memories of that day, no matter how vivid or how small. when memories haunt us, I encourage us remember this Bible passage: Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”
I think the first responders of 9/11 and the first responders of today embody all of those things. So think on those things today. Noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. We can only fight darkness with light.