I'm not sure why 9/11 was more significant for me this year. Perhaps it's because this afternoon I re-watched the entire NBC coverage from that fateful day; or perhaps it's because I find myself in a place haunted by the violence that was, at least indirectly, a result of those plane crashes.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of not only the victims of 9/11, but to all folks negatively affected by, as the History Channel calls it, the 10 minutes that changed the world.
Below is a short piece I wrote after being a part of what happened at the University of Texas on the evening of September 11, 2001.
Never before have I seen so much love, so much hurt. Never before have I seen a group of strangers come so close. Each holding a candle, each lost in his/her own thoughts, each student feeling the weight of the red, white and blue ribbon they wore. In such a huge school with such a wide variety of students, everyone became American, at least for that one hour on the South Mall this evening. The speakers spoke of unity, of sorrow, and of tragedy; they spoke of a small group of criminals responsible for the massacre, not of a whole race or religion bound to destroy the United States. They spoke of rebuilding the country and of carrying on as a nation. They needn't have spoken, for the unspoken feelings lay in the hearts of every person there; in the gestures, the hugs given to strangers, the tears shed for people far away. 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound' of a crowd so far away united in song; united in more than a song, united in purpose; united in more than purpose, united through compassion. The ceremony done, no one moves, no one speaks. Far off to the side of the crowd, a small female voice sings the only thing on her heart, singing also straight to the heart of everyone there resulting in the chorus of people joined in our nation's anthem which softly echoed throughout campus. 'And the home of the brave…' Not a sound was made, not a pin was dropped, we weren't ready to leave yet. A glow began to rise from the steps in front of the great Tower, normally the symbol of its students, tonight a symbol of the nation. A glow began from the steps, a glow from the candles placed on these steps. Each candle left behind was a piece of the heart of he/she who laid it there. Those who prayed took a knee, those who said they were sorry placed their candle down in a moment of silence. Each one, flickering in the wind on this faultlessly clear night, signifies the people of this nation amidst its tragedy, for as the wax burned low and the wicks fused together, a unit of fire was created, a unit commemorating those who died this day. Slowly the crowd dispersed in silent contemplation, leaving the stairs to burn still, to send a silent message, to hold onto the hope that seems so distant.