My husband and I moved to North New Jersey in January of 2012 – exactly 10 years and 4 months after the tragic events of 9/11. While 9/11 rocked us to the core, we had moved on. We worked our jobs, I went back to school and graduated five years later, our children grew – our lives continued. We, like many others, paused for a moment on the 9/11s that followed. We said our prayers and then went about our business. We didn’t forget – but the events of that awful day didn’t dominate our lives. And then we were called to New Jersey and we moved into the shadow of New York City. We live 23 miles from Times Square.
We quickly learned that even with 10 years and 4 months passed, the people of New Jersey had not moved on. Within the first six months of living here we heard the stories told as if they had happened last week. We heard how people gathered in the parking lot of the Covenant CRC to watch and pray. We heard how eerie it was to not have planes going overhead every other minute. North Jersey is on the approach to LaGuardia, Newark, and Teterboro Airports. There are times when a plane flies over my home every 75 seconds. We heard of the cars at the train station that sat there for weeks. We heard of children who spent the night at day care centers and schools – their parent never came back to pick them up. We heard of the students at the Eastern Christian High School who lined the halls waiting for a chance to call home and check on Mom or Dad and how the line kept getting shorter as the students located their parents – until there were only two young women left – sisters – who would never see their dad again. It seems like everyone had a story. Everyone knew someone who didn’t come home. With each telling there would be tears.
In the ordinary course of any given day we see New York City off in the distance. I have to wonder what it was like in the months that followed 9/11. The towers simply weren’t there anymore. The sight that dominated the skyline was suddenly gone. When we arrived, the new Freedom Tower was just beginning to rise on the horizon. It is now complete – and now dominates the view. I wonder what it would have been like to have that visual reminder every single day. The bad guys came – and for a while – it looked like they won.
The overpasses that line Rt. 208 and 4 (the major way into the City from our part of NJ) are still lined with flags, tributes, and flowers. The front yard of a home just blocks from my church has a shrine in the front yard to honor a loved one. Cars wear bumper stickers that remind us (as if we need reminding) to “never forget.” It will be a very long time before the people of North New Jersey “move on.”
We remember because it honors those who were lost that day. It honors the memories that their loved ones hold. It honors the parents who are raising their children alone. It honors the selfless acts of men and women who poured into the City (New York City) to help. It honors the lives of the 1000+ men and women who have since died of lung ailments or cancers they contracted that day.
We also remember because we look back and see that God didn’t abandon us. We see how he comforted and blessed, how he calmed fears, how peace was found in the midst of chaos. We remember because – here we are 15 years later – learning, loving, working, marrying, having children, aging, simply living. Yes, we still weep, still lament, still mourn, but we also sing, dance, and laugh. We live in the promise that season will follow season until the great Day when the Lord will come back and scoop up his people and take us home. We rest knowing that “though the wrong is oft so strong, God IS the ruler yet!” And we trust he will continue to see us through as he has in the past.