by Chris Koellhoffer, August 14, 2016
This present moment, this sacred now, is all we really have. Yesterday is unrepeatable and held in memory. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any one of us. This train of thought has lingered with me since I visited the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City this past week.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in New York beginning a certificate program in spiritual direction. I spent the next 24 hours in the company of frightened yet compassionate strangers, all of us haunted by the eerie silence of a normally noisy city, all of us desperately searching for information and trying to find a way home. Home for me at that time was the 10th floor of a high rise apartment in Jersey City, across the Hudson River. From that perch, I prayed and wept for days as I looked out on the smoking, smoldering Manhattan skyline with its terrible, raw scar and its gaping emptiness. I had not been able to return to the site of this overwhelming loss and grief until just this past week, some 15 years later.
Last week, spending time at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, I realized that I was once again in the company of strangers, all of us reverently trying to absorb the enormity of what we were witnessing. There were a few hushed whispers, many quiet tears, but mostly, there was the remembering and the cherishing, especially in the memorial exhibition, In Memoriam. Together, we entered a corridor and gazed up at the “Wall of Faces,” portrait photographs of the nearly 3,000 men, women, and children whose lives were taken by violence that day and in the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. We lingered over the touchscreen tables that offered a further glimpse into the precious lives commemorated through photographs, audio recordings, mementos. Outside at the reflecting pools in the footprints of the Twin Towers, we searched for familiar names and let our fingers linger when we found them.
That day at the memorial and museum, I who am a writer and lover of words had no words. No words. Words were not enough for the bright lights snuffed out not only here in New York City but in all the places in our world that have experienced acts of violence and savagery. No words. Only a reverencing for all that had been so brutally taken away. No words. Just a sense of communion with the corporate ache and the collective weeping of the human family.
Since then I have carried with me a wondering at what those lives might have become, what gifts and graces they might have showered on a world that continues to mourn their absence but honors them by moving forward in hope. Most probably, none of the beautiful, smiling faces filling wall after wall of the 9/11 memorial had any intuition that a September morning would be their last. All they had, which is all we have, is the present moment.
Their faces, and the faces of the many who have known both the beauty and the brokenness of our world, challenge me, impel me, plead with me: “Live with awareness. Don’t delay in sharing your love. Be extravagant with compassion. And do this right here, right now.”
Pause for a moment of quiet.
Name any loss which you are carrying today.
Ask God for healing for your own heart as well as the hearts of your neighbors across the world.
In the moments ahead of you today, how might you be invited to be a person of peace and tenderness?
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