Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. … So faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:7,13 RSV

“Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?” asks country singer Alan Jackson in a song that still makes me cry. Like our parents and Pearl Harbor, everyone above a certain age can answer that question precisely. But unlike the victims of Pearl Harbor, the people who died on that awful day 21 years ago were just innocent civilians going about their lives…you or me.

My own connection is easy to find. I’m a New Yorker by birth. One root of my father’s family goes back to early Dutch settlers in 1657. Their clay pipes could have been among those unearthed when they dug the foundations of the World Trade Center in 1973. My Dad worked on Fulton Street, a mere block from that future site. The summer I was 19, I cataloged travelers’ checks (remember them?) for American Express just 3-4 blocks away.

I’ve been gone from New York much longer than I lived there. I wasn’t prepared for the cold wing of death brushing my face when I realized that, had I made different decisions, I could’ve been there, or that my million-miler husband could so easily have been on one of the planes. Shuddering, I ripped my eyes from those horrible images until, over the years, I’ve become almost indifferent.

I don’t think I’m alone.

We said we would never forget…but we have. We said we would always honor the First Responders whose courage and sacrifice took our breaths away…but they have been attacked and even vilified.

It’s enough to make me feel hopeless and sad and guilty, all over again. Until my heart was lifted by a story I heard about only this week.

When the Towers went down, the people of lower Manhattan were trapped. All the normal methods of exit from the island—subways, trains, bridges—were closed. People ran to the waterfront in panic. New York boatmen, ordinary people, rallied to help. Ferries, tugboats, even private party boats flocked to the sea wall, rescuing 500,000 people in 9 hours. It was the greatest marine evacuation in history—larger even than the famous one at Dunkirk.

At the darkest moment of that darkest of days, the best of us emerged. Love won.
And that thought gives me hope.

Jackson ends his song echoing the ancient words of Paul:
“Faith, hope and love are some good things He (God) gave us/But the greatest is love.”

It is indeed.

FATHER GOD: Restore our country to its best. Help us renew our commitment to live in love. Amen.

First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” September 18, 2022.