13 Sep 2001
This Tuesday, I sat on my couch and watched the coverage of the unfolding horror on the east coast. My range of emotions, probably like yours, passed from disbelief and confusion to shock, sadness, anger, and on to still deeper sadness. By early afternoon, I felt helpless-- unable to be helped, and unable to help. My friend Levi felt the same way, and we told each other we wished we could be there; we wanted to help, somehow, and we wanted to understand. Within thirty minutes, we got in the car and headed east. We weren't exactly sure why we were going; we thought that it was foolish, but we felt that it was right. If only we could help someone, just a little bit. I told him that the reason I was going was to find out why I had gone.
Some sixteen hours later, I stopped in Somerset, Pennsylvania, eight miles away from one of the plane crashes. I talked to a man whose house was rattled by the blast. From there, we drove into Washington, to check on a friend who lives there. The city felt, in many ways, like a war zone-- military helicopters constantly circling overhead, masses of police and security men, barricades, and too many flags at half-mast to count. That night, the Pentagon was still smoldering from a gaping hole, and a crowd looked on with hushed voices.
From that scene, we went directly to New York. By this morning, when I arrived in Lower Manhattan, the police weren't letting anyone near the damage area, but they couldn't stop the clouds of dust. Face masks were everywhere. Rescue workers covered in dust wandered out of the area, looking dazed. Missing-person posters with pictures of businessmen and women papered the subway columns.
About an hour ago, I sat in the nearly empty St. Patrick's Cathedral, attempting to comprehend the gravity of the environment. I remembered Anne Lamott saying that the two best prayers she knows are "Help me, help me, help me," and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." With that in mind, I pray this prayer for our nation.
Help us, God. Help us understand why unspeakable horror exists in the world, and how it's possible to overcome it. Help us, comfort us, soothe us, calm us, heal us. Help us grieve the loss of our countrymen; increase our love and our compassion for one another. Steer us toward righteous anger, away from hateful anger. Help us learn how to pray, God. Turn our hearts toward You, and help us never turn away. Teach us, teach us that You are our protector, our provider, our rock, our salvation. Help us not have a spirit of fear, but one of a sound mind; sound, because of our dependence on You.
Thank You, God, thank You. Thank You that You are the author of life, and are always near us, no matter how far we feel. Thank You that you have given us a country that can withstand such awful attacks without crumbling. Thank You for granting inhuman, selfless courage and endurance to rescue workers. Thank You that You hear us when we call. Thank You, God, that You promise mercy to the merciful, and comfort to the mourning.