When I think back on the infamous “Attack on America,” as referred to by so many, I think about where I was, who I was, and what I was doing with my life at that point. Like so many significant historical events before my time, the younger generation asked me about my experience. I don’t have much to tell, or so I thought. I was just a sophomore in High School, barely understanding how the world and government worked and how it would affect me. This summer, I had the opportunity to serve the Lord with a wide variety of generations in the National Parks. When the subject of 9/11/2001 came into the conversation, there were a wide array of emotions and memories. Working with a lady about 25 years my senior, she recalled moment-for-moment where she was and how it was taking a toll on her husband and children, while a young man just 19 years of age that wasn’t even born when it happened said that it was just the world that he has always known. Being “middle-aged,” I stand in the middle where I know it happened, the world used to be different, and at the same time, it is now the world I have adapted to.
There are so many events that shape our lives and how we perceive the world. Talk to anyone who was at a young age during the Vietnam War or just a child during Desert Storm. It changes our world around us but sometimes, we don’t take the time to look at where our faith can be shaped in instances like these. I know I started to look at the differences in what people believe in their spiritual journey on this earth; as we may have been through the same event, it may have taken a different toll on each one of us. I know for myself, my faith in God and his son was rekindled, holding on to the gospel a little tighter than I did the day before, but what could it be like for our Muslim brothers and sisters? Could they fear for their lives, for their spiritual walk, and their peace of mind? While those questions always come into mind, my knowledge and awareness broadened a bit coming into a seminary with students from many nations and living conditions. How did this event affect them? Do they compare this event to an event in their country that I know nothing about, and does it give them the same kind of contemplative situation? It’s pretty interesting how we think about National or World events; we tend to control the narrative about what happened, who it happened to, and how we should feel about it. It’s a rare blessing when we can step outside of our own ideas on the subject and try to see things from a viewpoint that sometimes we avoid, someone other than ourselves.
As two decades have passed since this event took place, I have found myself asking more profound questions and digging deeper into my feelings, and trying harder to explore the feelings of those that don’t always come to mind. I have been looking at how this event had affected the Church as a whole and how it may have impacted those missionaries who were away when they heard that their home was in such disapparel. Of course, we each come back to our way of thinking, feeling, and actions, but in the end, our focus should be on how we as Children of God can be compassionate and understanding of those who feel or think differently than we do. It’s not an easy journey to take and can sometimes cause us some emotional grief to go outside our comfort zone and indeed be a disciple of Christ, giving the love that God has equipped us with for our fellow humans.
So while we memorialize twenty years since this event took place, let’s allow ourselves to confront our personal feelings, knowledge, and actions as we also take the time to engage our faith and perhaps our fears associated with this event. So, to my brothers and sisters from other nations and living situations. To those that were not here, or perhaps your nation was fighting something that no one outside of your nation could understand, I encourage you to tell your narrative and share your feelings. It helps each of us when we can broaden our view and look at the big picture.
I implore you to consciously seek outside of your own experience and embrace the experiences of those around you. Take great care in listening to those who have experienced the event. Even be mindful of those who don’t know the difference, but the change has also affected them. Each event in our lives can shape our spiritual journey if we purposefully pay attention to our path. Finally, please note those who cross our paths and give unyielding compassion to those we have yet to encounter.
Sara Millard MAML(Pastoral Care) Distance Learning Student. Kidney Transplant Recipient, Seminary Student, and just happy to be here.