Lest We Forget

11988726_429047497291597_5725020903439229141_nI was not anywhere near the tragedies of 9-11…at least not physically. We watched the events unfold on television while sitting on a couch in our tiny apartment on a seminary campus just north of San Francisco.  Like most of the country, we sat dumbfounded.  No one spoke.  Everyone cried, including my newborn son.  It was a lot to take in.  Clearly the world had changed.  I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do.  We all do.  It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy.  And then, we remember again.

My mother-in-law, Karen, woke us up with the news that day.  Given the three-hour difference between New York and California, my husband and I were still sleeping.  Karen was helping to care for our newborn son (she had been up feeding the baby) and held him in her arms when she came into the bedroom.    I remember her voice, mostly a whisper, saying, “You have to see this,” as she ushered us into the next room.  It didn’t take but a moment for us to realize that this was not good news.  Over the next few hours we watched news coverage of our country being attacked.  Like a bad movie, it all seemed so surreal as report after report showed one plane crash and then another and another.  Time stood still.

Eventually, there were phone calls.  Lots of phone calls.  While the East Coast was under attack, it didn’t take long for family and friends to try to reach out to one another…making sure everyone was accounted for.  Living in the Bay Area, it occurred to us that San Francisco could easily be on a target list.  I tried to put it out of my mind, but looking at my baby, Sean, I remember thinking THIS WASN’T THE PLAN!  If you know me, you know I have these random (and possibly irrational) thought outbursts.  Sean and I had already been through a bumpy pregnancy, a scary delivery, followed by two hospital stays and he wasn’t even two weeks old yet.  I cried.  What kind of a world was this?

Panic is an interesting emotion.  It builds upon itself and opens the door to sadness, fear and anger.  Nothing seemed right.  Immediately, I prayed for those at the scene.  I prayed that there would be survivors.  I prayed that help would arrive on time.  I prayed for justice.  I worried about kids who were at schools and people on the freeway trying to get home.  I especially prayed for those in the air.  Eventually, we learned that Steve’s uncle’s flight was diverted to Canada.  My mother informed me that large passenger planes had been forced to land at the small airport in the tiny, Kansas town where I grew up.  Everyone was on heightened alert.  And this is where we stayed emotionally, not just for the day…but for days and days which eventually stretched into weeks.

There is another memory that I will forever carry with me about this particular time in our nation’s history.  On the way to church the next week, there were armed soldiers on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Dozens of them.  The beauty of this national landmark and the breathtaking scenery surrounding it took a backseat to the reality of life in the United States at that moment.  My heart sank.  Would it always be like this?  Could we find our way back?  Would anything ever be the same?  I know I was not alone in asking these questions.  Yet, it’s at times like these where we find our faith and ultimately our strength.  That Sunday we praised, prayed and sang to an all-powerful, loving God.  This, I will always want to remember.

America is a great nation, founded on wonderful principles that continue to fill its people with a sense of pride and purpose.  Our country rallied.  We made plans, sought out ways to ensure the safety of our people, and moved forward.  Some would say that THIS IS the American way.  The days since have not always been easy.  The threat of terrorism has become the new normal.  And we’ve had to adjust.  The world is different and we are different.  A swell of nationalism permeated every part of our country during those times.  Many laid aside their differences as we came together in prayer and resolve.  In the following months and years much was sacrificed to apprehend those responsible for this unbelievable tragedy.  The events of that one day dramatically affecting every part of American life.

Unfortunately, in the years since the attack we have seen that sense of unity erode.  Nowadays, America is known for its political infighting.  Activists of all kinds have sought to divide the people in countless ways.  Those spewing hate have managed to turn neighbors against one another.  Agendas have created word wars and many have been hurt…even killed.  All of this within our own borders while the threat of terrorism still looms large.  I hate what happened to our country on 9-11, but in remembering the tragedy itself we can find hope.  Today (on the anniversary,) in every way and shape imaginable WE REMEMBER.   Today, at every turn we recall the significance of this day and remember the lives lost.  Today, we seek to honor and recognize the true heroes among us.  Today, social media is filled with symbolism and pride as we cannot and will not forget what has happened.  Surprisingly, I find comfort in this type of remembering.

I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do.  We all do.  It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy.  And then, we remember again…lest we forget.

9-11 Timeline

When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.  –C.S. Lewis

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Lest We Forget

11988726_429047497291597_5725020903439229141_nI was not anywhere near the tragedies of 9-11…at least not physically. We watched the events unfold on television while sitting on a couch in our tiny apartment on a seminary campus just north of San Francisco.  Like most of the country, we sat dumbfounded.  No one spoke.  Everyone cried, including my newborn son.  It was a lot to take in.  Clearly the world had changed.  I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do.  We all do.  It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy.  And then, we remember again.

My mother-in-law, Karen, woke us up with the news that day.  Given the three-hour difference between New York and California, my husband and I were still sleeping.  Karen was helping to care for our newborn son (she had been up feeding the baby) and held him in her arms when she came into the bedroom.    I remember her voice, mostly a whisper, saying, “You have to see this,” as she ushered us into the next room.  It didn’t take but a moment for us to realize that this was not good news.  Over the next few hours we watched news coverage of our country being attacked.  Like a bad movie, it all seemed so surreal as report after report showed one plane crash and then another and another.  Time stood still.

Eventually, there were phone calls.  Lots of phone calls.  While the East Coast was under attack, it didn’t take long for family and friends to try to reach out to one another…making sure everyone was accounted for.  Living in the Bay Area, it occurred to us that San Francisco could easily be on a target list.  I tried to put it out of my mind, but looking at my baby Sean I remember thinking THIS WASN’T THE PLAN!  If you know me, you know I have these random (and possibly irrational) thought outbursts.  Sean and I had already been through a bumpy pregnancy, a scary delivery, followed by two hospital stays and he wasn’t even two weeks old yet.  I cried.  What kind of a world was this?

Panic is an interesting emotion.  It builds upon itself and opens the door to sadness, fear and anger.  Nothing seemed right.  Immediately, I prayed for those at the scene.  I prayed that there would be survivors.  I prayed that help would arrive on time.  I prayed for justice.  I worried about kids who were at schools and people on the freeway trying to get home.  I especially prayed for those in the air.  Eventually, we learned that Steve’s uncle’s flight was diverted to Canada.  My mother informed me that large passenger planes had been forced to land at the small airport in the tiny, Kansas town where I grew up.  Everyone was on heightened alert.  And this is where we stayed emotionally, not just for the day…but for days and days which eventually stretched into weeks.

There is another memory that I will forever carry with me about this particular time in our nation’s history.  On the way to church the next week, there were armed soldiers on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Dozens of them.  The beauty of this national landmark and the breathtaking scenery surrounding it took a backseat to the reality of life in the United States at that moment.  My heart sank.  Would it always be like this?  Could we find our way back?  Would anything ever be the same?  I know I was not alone in asking these questions.  Yet, it’s at times like these where we find our faith and ultimately our strength.  That Sunday we praised, prayed and sang to an all-powerful, loving God.  This, I will always want to remember.

America is a great nation, founded on wonderful principles that continue to fill its people with a sense of pride and purpose.  Our country rallied.  We made plans, sought out ways to ensure the safety of our people, and moved forward.  Some would say that THIS IS the American way.  The days since have not always been easy.  The threat of terrorism has become the new normal.  And we’ve had to adjust.  The world is different and we are different.  A swell of nationalism permeated every part of our country during those times.  Many laid aside their differences as we came together in prayer and resolve.  In the following months and years much was sacrificed to apprehend those responsible for this unbelievable tragedy.  The events of that one day dramatically affecting every part of American life.

Unfortunately, in the fourteen years since the attack we have seen that sense of unity erode.  Nowadays, America is known for its political infighting.  Activists of all kinds have sought to divide the people in countless ways.  Those spewing hate have managed to turn neighbors against one another.  Agendas have created word wars and many have been hurt…even killed.  All of this within our own borders while the threat of terrorism still looms large.  I hate what happened to our country on 9-11, but in remembering the tragedy itself we can find hope.  Today (on the anniversary,) in every way and shape imaginable WE REMEMBER.   Today, at every turn we recall the significance of this day and remember the lives lost.  Today, we seek to honor and recognize the true heroes among us.  Today, social media is filled with symbolism and pride as we cannot and will not forget what has happened.  Surprisingly, I find comfort in this type of remembering.

I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do.  We all do.  It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy.  And then, we remember again…lest we forget.

9-11 Timeline

When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.  –C.S. Lewis

Election Reflection (I Got My Sticker, How ‘Bout You?)

Did you vote? Or did you “rock” the vote?

I votedEither way on this post-election Wednesday I am enjoying the quiet.  As I sip coffee I am mindful of the fact that my phone is eerily and peacefully quiet (yes, we still have a landline!)  No longer am I the recipient of ten thousand political robocalls…none of which I ever listened to from start to finish…that is if I even picked up!  It was so bad that my children would even groan when the phone rang.  The Caller ID (yeah, I still have that, too) flashed phone numbers from around the country.  Some robocalls even left messages for me…I didn’t know that they could do that?  When an actual “live” person was on the line, they only wanted to know which way I was voting.  Sounded like a trap to me.  I politely told the fella that I hadn’t decided and that must have put me on another list, because the calls really amped up from there.  Vying for your vote is serious business!  Outreach that could have boosted my ego and made me feel super popular, actually made me a little sad and not to mention overall annoyed.  It makes me wonder how effective this strategy really is and whether or not it even matters anymore (the incessant campaigning, not the vote.)

Listen, I’m not apolitical.  In fact, I might be a little too political.  That being said, I really want to see an end to all of this insane campaign saturation.  I understand that the candidates have a job to do, but I also think that the American people have a job to do, too.  And in some ways, the candidates are letting us off the hook with their quick 5 point mailers, flashy slogans, and negative campaigning.  I remember being a student in junior high (man, I am dating myself all over the place…that would be “middle school” for some of you) taking government class and absolutely LOVING it.  I enjoyed learning about the history of our country and the hows and whys in which the government was set up.  Somewhere along the way, I thought it was my responsibility as a citizen to participate and understand politics.  I thought the onus was on me to take the time to research the candidates and issues on the ballot.  In some ways, I feel really let down to know that this isn’t necessarily the case.

We all know that the negative campaigning has increased year after year, election after election.  At times it feels like the political process is more about mudslinging and name calling…bringing to mind childhood playground antics and bullying mentality.  Most people whom I talk to agree that this is irritating, mean-spirited and in some cases, off-putting enough to cause them to bow out of the process altogether.    As an adult, I should no longer be surprised to see how politics causes rifts in families and friendships…yet I am consistently amazed at how divisive it all can be.  I try not to be discouraged…and as a result this election season I set out to be more observant of the whole process as it relates to the current political culture in America.  I’m taking in the mailers, radio and TV ads, the intense campaign presence on the internet and especially all the attention focused on our newest voters, not to mention future voters.  It’s been interesting….

As a parent, I’m particularly invested in how my kiddos see the election process.  One moment comes to mind:  the Presidential Election in 2008.  At the time, my youngest was three and my oldest was seven.  Nickelodeon was doing a gangbusters job of involving the kids in the election with the Kids Pick the President campaign.  So much so, that my kids were lobbying for opposing candidates.  Casey was crazy about “Rock Bobama” (yes, that’s what she called him 🙂 ) She ran around the house mumbling “Rock Bobama” for weeks.  She recognized him whenever he came on TV (whether it was Nickelodeon or not.)  You would have thought he was a member of the family!  She would be mesmerized by the Kids Pick the President promos and would ask us if we were voting for her candidate!  It was incredibly cute and sort of disturbing at the same time.  She had no idea what voting was, but when the promo showed up during “Dora the Explorer” she knew enough to know this was serious business.  We laugh about it now, but it goes to show how well some campaigns work.

On the other side of the ballot was Sean’s candidate:  Senator John McCain.  Sean was particularly moved by the fact that Senator McCain served in the military and had been a prisoner of war.  At the time, my son was a student in Wichita public schools.  His class was following the election process and he had a zillion questions for me.  We spent a lot of time (clarification…a lot of time for a seven-year-old) looking up both candidates and their platforms.  Sean felt very confident and ready to cast his ballot at school.  When his candidate lost, he was sad and surprised.  I was taken aback at his reaction.  He explained to me that it wasn’t fair…Senator McCain had given up so much for this country.  He was certain that he would be a great leader.  He sulked a bit, but if you know Sean…he bounced out of it rather quickly–although I did see him shoot his sister an occasional evil glare whenever she mumbled about the house chanting “Rock Bobama.”  The campaign may have been over, but it’s hard to undo a phrase that has been hardwired into a three-year old’s brain.  Thanks, Nickelodeon.

As a family, we spent a lot of time talking about the election this year.  The kids shared their thoughts, ideas and especially their observations.  Casey still has several “new” political catchphrases rolling around in her brain and off her tongue (she knows quite a few negative ads verbatim. Thank you, YouTube!)  Living in Kansas, the campaign was particularly mean-spirited at times …especially where the U.S. Senate was concerned.  We went over and over what it means to be a “liberal” and a “conservative.”  I don’t know about you, but I found it all rather amusing that we spent the whole 20-minute ride to the orthodontist’s office talking about Senator Harry Reid and why he was mentioned in so many political ads.  On a more solemn note, never did I imagine that I would have to explain gay marriage to a nine-year-old or drudge up the terrible crimes committed by the Carr brothers and why that was a relevant part of this election’s campaign to my thirteen-year-old.  But this is the real world–good and bad, and politics is certainly no exception.

Overall, I’m glad that we have made time to discuss the importance of voting and the election process.  It made my day to see a long line at my polling site and to discover via Facebook that a number of my friends and family voted as well.  It is an incredible responsibility–one I don’t take lightly and I hope to instill that value in the hearts and minds of my kiddos.  Last night while listening to a local pundit recap the election results, the radio host asked him this question, “What wins elections?  What do you think the anti-tax group did that the pro-tax campaign didn’t do?”  He simply answered that there are so many factors…money of course, but also repetition of message.  He said, “Repetition wins.”  I took those two words to heart.  I love this country and we have plenty of room for improvement.  And if “repetition wins,” then we have some important values that we need to repeat…freedom, responsibility, and honesty to name a few.  At the same time, we have to keep in mind that repetition can work against us as well.  If you hear enough that your vote doesn’t count, nothing ever changes, or that voting isn’t important…well eventually that will sink in, too.

“To whom much is given, much is expected….”  Such wise words. We live in the greatest nation on the planet.  This is important.  So keep voting, America.  Over and over.  Repeat.

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.—Franklin D. Roosevelt