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9/11, A Math Teacher, and My Wife

September 11, 2011

So with talk of Craig West departing Gold City after NQC, the selection is for all the Gold City nerds in the house.  A little gem by Steve Lacey.

But past that, as Alan Jackson so eloquently sings, “Where Were You?”  You know.  When terrorists attacked.  When our country arguably faced the most tumultuous event since Pearl Harbor.  It was much more than an attack on our soil.  It was a direct attack to the heart of America.  Our hearts burned with anger and sadness, a type of abbreviated melancholy that became more than just an abbreviation in our minds.  A proceeding response of banding together to fulfill the duty of our national calling.  It is etched in the very fabric of who we are as a country, but also, who we are as people.

Forget the political conspiracy of 9/11.  That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  Only naive people could believe that.  A “so-called” conspiracy left kids without a father.  A husband without a wife.  And security vanished in place of fear.

Sitting in Coach’s Stock Market class, the PA came on.  “There has been an attack”.  Coach flipped on the TV.  My eyes gazed the room to see reactions.  We weren’t really sure of the implications.  But we were overcome with fear.  Not that we were innocent in our behavior or our thoughts, but the world was no longer black and white.  It was covered in smoke.  We wrestled in that hour with the thoughts that this wasn’t done. Something else was about to happen.  And it did.  We watched as the second plane hit.  Live television.  We watched as people began jumping out of buildings.  I often think back on what I saw and try to imagine myself jumping from the same building.  How long would it take for me to come to grips with the fact that I only have a few seconds left in this world.  11 seconds maybe?  8 seconds?  What wonderful memories could I try to take with me to my grave?  Did my kids really know I loved them?  Did my wife get that note that I left for her this morning…with the flowers?  Was I a good person?  Will I leave a mark?  Is heaven real?  Being in elements where the world flashed before my eyes in past experiences, it’s not outrageous to think that a person could think about so many things in just a few seconds.  I know that you can.

On to my next class.  Mrs. Culberson, a sweet and petite math teacher with a twin sister who had trouble controlling our class.  I hated math.  I came into the room, and she was sitting at her desk crying.  Her husband was a pilot who had flown back from New York City earlier that morning.  That’s when things began to connect for me.  That’s when I realized that in the midst of my innocent, un-learned uncertainty, I would never forget those real emotions.  Humanity’s tears running down the sides of her cheeks, makeup a bit smudged, and stillness.  The only time there had ever been silence in that class.  A buddy of mine who did not quite yet grasp the magnitude of the catastrophe, in the best way he knew how, offered to her a joke, hoping she would smile.  She did not move, eyes glazed over, as if no one were even in the room.

School ended early.  Football practice canceled.  I spent the rest of the day walking around the neighborhood of that little mountain town, watching the leaves change colors.  I do believe I saw the colors change.  Slowly, hauntingly, chillingly.  I went from planning my attack on Al-Queda to trying to cope with lives lost and the anguish of the families.  The anguish of the nation.  Mindlessly, my boyhood mind ran rampant to childish things and back to grown up things.  Previously, most of my personal tragedy had been the death of grandparents, great-grandparents, divorce, spankings, my girlfriend breaking up with me, and having to go to school with snow still on the ground.  Yet, I could admit that this was bigger than myself and my own personal tragedies.

Our military heroes have been diligent in doing what needed to be done…not merely to restore glory to this nation, but to fight terrorism.  To fight for freedom.  To fight against the evil that prevails within this world.  This ultimately isn’t about America.  This is about life everywhere.  Those men that fight don’t solely fight for their nation.  They fight for their beloved families and friends.  They suit up in honor, to free their kids from tyranny.  To know peace, one must fight with conviction.

I often think back on the irony that I happened to be in Stock Market class when I first saw it.  Going directly to my next class, as my teacher was praising God for her husband’s safety and God’s provident hand over her husband.  I didn’t know that then, but I do now.  I should thank her for one day.  Not for being my math teacher, but for showing emotion.  And letting me know that other people were affected.  And I saw the response of a heart in mourning and thankfulness at the same time.  There is no black and white in that.  It is both black and white.  The outcomes were both good and bad, right and wrong, holy and evil.  The plan of God just is.  And always will be.  There is nothing we can do to change it.  And there is nothing we can do to prevent it.

But I have pride in my country.  And I have satisfaction in the Cross.  It was enough.  It is enough.  That sacrificial death for the nations.  Sure, I believe there are some things that must be separated between religion and politics.  But this is life and we have to see both worlds as they are.  And what a soldier’s death can be sure to represent is the relationship of one dying for my freedom.  Now, I have life.

In that little school, in another classroom, sat my future wife.  Her sweet heart, breaking for the ones that would be moved by this, though not entirely coming to grips with what it meant for her.  I should let this act of selflessness propel me to love her more fully, selflessly, sacrificially.  I hope to always love her as it were the death of myself, so she can find peace and worth.  So she knows my emotions are founded on something more than her or myself.  If my own sacrifice brings life to her and others, then I have found something I shall never give up.

So what stirs my affections for Christ?  Well today, 9/11.  The troops that were sent into action.  And my heart was stirred that day.  And that day led me back to Her.  That I would love her more than anything. That I know I have been sent into action to serve her.  And Christ, who has conquered the grave.  The mangled, stricken, beaten, willing, and bloody Messiah who is my Savior.  For me, they are directly connected.  I love you all.

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From → Culture

9 Comments
  1. I have respect for our military too. It’s just that I wish they weren’t flung around in so many time-wasting ways. We’re trying to be the world’s policemen. So we send our fathers, brothers (and, unfortunately, our women), on what really turn out to be pointless missions.

    So I guess I would say that I admire our military in the sense that I admire whatever personally admirable character qualities (love, courage) a godly soldier exhibits in the middle of wherever our illogical government has placed him. I’m not a pacifist. War is necessary sometimes. It’s just that things aren’t nearly as clear and ordered as they were 70 years ago.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post, so thank you. Careful now, you might turn into a flag-waving fundamentalist.

    • #1 Always been a fundamentalist according the world’s standards. And always will be if they define it as they do.
      #2 I am a patriot. I have always waved that flag of stars and stripes proudly.

      • That’s what I like to hear. “You see Rick, underneath that neutral shell, you’re a hopeless fundamentalist.” (Sorry, little classic movie allusion there…)

  2. Related thing to celebrate: Osama Bin Laden is dead. Ding-dong. Sing it high, sing it low.

  3. spiderchocolate permalink

    unrelated to the majority of the post, but–Craig West is leaving? no!!!

  4. On Gold City/Craig West: I’m a little inclined to believe it’s a rumor started by GC skeptics who are still mad about all the changes that have happened since Jonathan Wilburn’s departure (and a good portion of those were not really the management’s fault, but that’s another story.) I suppose we will see, though; if it is true, what a big blow to the group. West is a phenomenal talent.

    On the subject of 9/11, I was in third grade at the time, so the reality of it never really hit me until a few years later, when I watched the documentary made by the French brothers who were following a rookie NYC firehouse team when 9/11 happened. From the time that the cameraman looked up and saw the first plane pass directly over them and hit the tower until the end when they got out of the rubble of one of the towers, I was horrified. It’s a heart-wrenching tragedy, the likes of which I hope this country never sees again.

    Here’s the entire documentary on Youtube. Be warned that some of the language is very rough: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVM_-rfhjcQ

    A 10th anniversary edition of it is airing tonight at 7 on CBS.

    • Wow, Aaron, what an amazing documentary. Thank you so much for that link. Nothing like seeing actual footage and not just a re-creation.

      • You’re welcome. I believe every American should watch that at least once. I was out and about tonight when the 10th Anniversary airing of it came on, but I’m sure it will be re-aired throughout the week.

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