Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

I woke up this morning, and I felt an overwhelming compulsion to write. Yesterday, I attended the WVU football game, and mixed throughout the game were a variety of points for reflection, for singing, for remembering, and for grieving the events that changed our country and the world on September 11, 2001.

I remember so vividly ten years ago. I was working as an analytical chemist at what was then the world's largest generic drug manufacturer in the world, Mylan Pharmaceuticals. We were listening to a small radio when the music was interrupted with an announcement that brought our work to a temporary halt. A plane had just flown into the top of one of the towers at the world trade center. We all continued working as discovery after discovery was made. A second plane flew into the other tower. We then were confirmed that this was not an accident, but a deliberate attack on a symbol of our nation's financial wealth. An attack that took thousands of lives.

And as the day progressed, we all continued our work in the lab, and were shocked as more and more news came over the radio. Four planes in total. The third flew into the pentagon, and the fourth landed in a field about an hour away from us. As the work day ended, I invited all of my coworkers who wanted to come to join me in our break room for a short time of prayer. None of us were sure what exactly had happened, but we all felt a desire to cry out for answers, and to intercede and help, the best we knew how, on behalf of the people who had lost their loved ones, and on behalf of those who were first responders across our world.

I had planned on giving my two weeks notice on September 12th, 2001. I was starting a new career in ministry, but I couldn't leave just yet. Mylan was giving away a proprietary burn ointment to victims in need in the aftermath, and it just happened to be among the drugs I was working to test. I felt that it was my contribution to help in the aftermath.

Our country has gone through a series of changes in the aftermath. I remember flying for the first time as I was starting my new job, and no longer could one go sit at the gates of the airport with family and friends. I miss those days. I have some very special and emotionally loaded memories with being greeted or saying goodbye at my plane's gate. But much more changed for me beyond that.

I feel like I became more keenly aware of issues around the world. My eyes were opened in a far greater way to the hurts of the world, from slavery, to human trafficking, and from political injustice to extreme poverty, I began to see the world through a different lens. Actually, I think many of us did. No longer were problems of the world seen as far away, and not our concern, but rather we began looking for ways to help our neighbors around the globe.

Years later, I made another career change to begin working with my friends at Nuru International.  I was reminded by my friend Jake's Story (in the video above) of just how connected everything is. During his times of service in Force Recon, he saw a connection between terrorism, insurgency, and extreme poverty. He also came face to face with suffering and desperation to which most of us living in the west have no comparison. Those unshakeable visuals have led him and many others to begin working to serve others by equipping them with the tools and resources they need to lead their communities out of the desperate conditions of extreme poverty.

And so, as I remember the events of September 11, 2001, I feel a myriad of emotions. Even yesterday, while attending the football game, I felt a little disoriented. I wanted to be in the moment of celebrating a Mountaineer victory, and then I wanted to be in the moment of grieving and remembering as we took time as a crowd to spend a moment in silence, and allow the memories to flood in. But as I've had time to process it a bit more, I feel overwhelmed by hope.

Why hope? I believe that as much as our world has changed since September 11, 2001, collectively, we have become more caring about our world. Over the last ten years, I have met several people who have been willing to leave lucrative careers in an effort to dedicate their lives to the service of others. I have also seen more and more people become generous with their hard-earned income in a challenging economy, because they see the needs of others, and they want to help their neighbors, whether locally or globally.

Our eyes have shed many tears since that fateful day, and they have been opened to tragedy after tragedy, but they have also been opened to hope and dream of a better world, and to put forth the effort to change those dreams into reality. As you and I remember the events of 2001, may we be filled with the desire and the discipline to be part of creating a better world.

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