Today is the Day
Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the most devastating terrorist attack on the United States. For many, the images of the towers collapsing in New York and the Pentagon building with a huge gaping hole in its side and the crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania have not been forgotten. We remember where we were, and the uncertainty of the days that followed, and the sense that this tragedy drew us together as a nation in a manner we don’t often experience.
After fifteen years, there are now many young people who only know this as a historical event. And the patriotism and sense of national unity that spread through the nation in those months after the attacks often seem to be a distant memory amid the rhetoric of this political season. But, the horror of that day and the heroism and courage shown by so many continues to offer us inspiration and hope.
It was just an ordinary day for the small group of people there on the subway car. They would soon arrive at the Transportation Center and go off to their work in the World Trade Center or one of the other nearby office buildings. Then suddenly, just two stops before their destination, the car stopped abruptly and they were plunged into darkness as the electricity was cut off. Soon people began to panic as they could smell smoke coming through the tunnel. They were far below street level, and no one was sure how to get to safety.
But then, amid the panic and confusion, they heard a calm voice. He told them he knew the way out, and in the darkness, one-by-one, he took their hand and led them through the darkness up the stairs to the street level. And then he returned to help the next person, and the next, until all were out of danger.
They had seen him sitting there every day on their commute into the city. They didn’t know his story and never paid him much attention. No one ever spoke with him. But, after that terrible morning, they had a new appreciation for this man who had put aside his own safety to assure that each of them was rescued from danger. They now called that blind man and his guide dog the Angel of the Subway.
There were countless stories of heroism and tragedy on that terrible day. Firefighters and police officers and medical personnel streamed into the buildings as others ran for their lives. And many were lost. Over three thousand persons left their home, left their loved ones, headed out on a normal workday never to return. And we all were reminded that the world is a dangerous and uncertain place, and every day is a precious gift that we need to appreciate.
As we remember that fateful day, perhaps it is time again to refocus on what is most important. Finishing that project at work or watching another show on TV is not as important as making time to enjoy the company of those we love. Holding a grudge and giving the silent treatment is going to be such a waste of time as we realize the moment to speak our love is now lost. We can be an “angel” to another without putting our self in any danger at all simply by choosing to do something, to give our attention, to focus on someone else. We only have to do it. And today is the day.
–Fr. Stephen W Bierschenk