Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 10, 2001

No, that's not a typo. Obviously and rightfully the focus this weekend is on the 10-year anniversary of one of the most horrifying days in our lifetime, September 11, 2001. We all recognize that day as a dramatic turning point for our military, for our nation, for our world. Which is why, on the eve of this day, when we will be so bombarded with reminders of those terrifying events and subsequent permanent changes, I wanted to take some time to reflect on that glorious day before... the day before a decade of war began.

Nick Plebe
On that day, Monday, September 10, 2001, I was actually having a really hard day (relatively speaking). It had been over a month since I had last seen Nick at Plebe Parents Weekend. And in that month since, we had spoken on the phone maybe twice. I got an email from him about once a week. And instant messenger conversations were usually 5 minutes at most and conducted while Nick was doing chemistry homework ahead of his 10pm bedtime so he could get up at 6am and run three miles before formation and another day of rigorous coursework.

My Freshman year: Lounging on the beach with sorority sisters
Meanwhile, I was three weeks into the easiest courseload of my college career, sorority life that was soaked in the excitement of date functions and frat parties, and my first taste of total freedom... eating whatever and whenever, hanging out with whomever whenever, going anywhere whyever, and no reason to go to sleep before 3am or wake up before noon. In fact, there were some mornings where Nick would get up in the 5's to go run and I'd say hi on instant messenger because I had yet to go to sleep that night. Needless to say, my world at the University of Florida was about as opposite as you can get from Nick's at the U.S. Naval Academy. And the lack of basic communication was really starting to get to me. With so few opportunities to connect, I felt like I was dating an idea. After such a difficult first month, could we really do this for four years? Four years??

Nick's Freshman year: Getting yelled at
To make things worse, Nick had tipped me off that this week would be "back to basics" for the Plebes, meaning no instant messenger, no email, no phone calls until the weekend, which he would spend away at a cross country meet doing homework. Frustrated, angry, upset with the prospect of an entire week of no communication with Nick, the thought of calling it quits was more than on my mind.

But then I reflected on the bigger picture. Naturally, I turned to the one voice that never lets me down. Within the pages of my journal there is such a fine consistency of my repetitive journey from emotional huff to sensible conclusion. For it is within these pages that clarity emerges, emotions sort themselves out, and reality begins to align with expectations.  Here's what I came up with:

September 10, 2001
What I have learned about God through my relationship with Nick:
1) Faith and love are the two strongest forces in the universe.
2) God provides.
3) We must set our eyes on the good to come, not the passing pleasure of the moment.

4) Being separated from your love is the most painful feeling imaginable.
5) God loves me... and wants me to be with Him... and He wants me to be happy as well.
6) Love is the most amazing thing ever created in the history of existence.

Love prevails!
In addition to this list, I also wrote Nick an email that night, explaining how much I was struggling. I hated knowing that the very writing of it would add one more stressful thing on his plate to wake up to, but I couldn't pretend anymore. Within 12 hours of writing both the email and the journal entry, towers tumbled, planes disappeared, terror ensued, and seemingly everything changed. Things in my own life were immediately put into perspective. The thought of not having Nick in my life at all was a far worse prospect than going a few days without talking to him. And given the tragedy, back to basics was lifted anyway. With classes canceled for both of us, I talked to Nick more that day than I did the entire rest of the school year. Not knowing what, if anything, would happen next, it was a scary day for all of us.

Home from his first deployment
Ten years later the evidence of everything that changed is that much more apparent, as Nick has now been deployed to multiple war zones in several countries, and too many others have not come home. I think as a military and as a nation we have accepted that we can never fully go back to September 10, 2001. That said, what I love about my entry from that day is that, even with all the changes that came the next day, everything from that list is still true ten years later. So while we can never go back exactly, we can rest knowing there are some truths that no amount of evil can ever take away from us. Truths about God and truths about love. Some would call them one in the same.

Ten years later, I will spend this September 11, 2011 reflecting on all that has happened. My day will start at church where I will sing in our worship team during the second service. And standing among group members from Japan, the Philippines, Guam, and congregation members from China, Thailand, Australia, Germany, Argentina, and all over the U.S., from all branches of the U.S. military, we will lift our voices as one in a song of peace for all nations. And the indestructible truths about God and love will get us through yet another day. And in fact, another decade.

For love, after all, is the most amazing thing ever created in the history of existence.

This Is My Song

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover-leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh, hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth's kingdoms: 
Your kingdom come on earth your will be done. 
O God be lifted up till all shall serve you, 
And hearts united learn to live as one. 
So hear my prayer, O God of all the nations; 
 Myself I give you; let your will be done.


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