For many of us, the shadows that have stretched over our hearts and spirits will defy the sunshine for the days and weeks to come. Some of us will never know warmth and comfort again. When I went to bed last night, fifteen of my co-workers were unaccounted for. This morning, there is a sheet of paper scotch-taped to the door with the number 9 slashed out, and the number 8 written beneath it. For some, that number brings healing and relief; but for most, it is a devastating tally – a morbid marker of loss. Coming into the office today, it was still possible to feel distended from the disaster; insulated and secure in the knowledge that it happened to someone else, somewhere else. But that number 8 shatters any insulation, and brings the calamity to our doorstep.
As for me, I’m still waiting to break. I’ve come close a few times. Last night, driving north on Interstate 95, at the overpass to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, there was an elderly man holding a massive American flag and waving to the exodus from Washington – wearing his VFW cap proudly. Just past him, as we crested the hill, you could see the tiny wisp of black on the horizon billowing from three states away as the smoke behind still blurred the rear view mirror. Seeing that veteran with his flag was a staggering comfort that had several drivers on the shoulder of the interstate. His message was the most comforting one I’ve ever known: “We’ve been here before; we will prevail. I’ve been there.”
I’d like to take his message and give it to you in the hopes that it will be just as comforting. We enjoy such great liberty in this nation, and often need to be reminded that our comforts and our liberties are not universal – they are expensive commodities enjoyed from the moment we are born. In a global sense, we as Americans are the spoiled rich kids who never know want, and never know discomfort. That wealth comes at a high cost. Yesterday, we made another down-payment. We pay the price in lives, and we stagger at the overwhelming enormity of it. The cost is beyond measure, and the price is inconceiveable – but it has been paid. We as a nation, will gather up, we will clean the streets and we will mourn our dead. We have lost many, many good people. They have paid our marker, and left us to enjoy the luxuries of liberty and freedom for another day.
Fire is a duality of forces. It is death and destruction; pain and suffering; yet at the same time, it is a purification and a cleansing. The same flames that tear apart forest and city is used to cleanse infection and purify raw ore into gold. Yesterday, the raw ores of the American spirit were purified, and in the midst of death was born countless tales of heroism – sadly, most of which also end in death and sorrow. Today, New York City’s fire department is cut in half – two hundred valliant heroes walked into the maw, and were gone in a breath. As the night gives way to another day, and the winds blow the smoke out to sea, I hope that the sun finds us honorable, and worthy of the luxuries bestowed upon us by heroes who have walked into the maw without looking back.
From the safety of my office window, I look down at soldiers and police officers, agents and paramedics; sitting on the grass and holding hands in prayer for our people, our nation, and our planet. I share their prayers and pray that as we commend our lost loves to the arms of the angels, we all find some comfort here.
I need some distraction
oh beautiful release
memory seeps from my veins
let me be empty
and weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight
in the arms of an angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort there