I remember my alarm, set to a local radio station, going off... I can't remember the time but I think it was around 7:30am. The only thing I heard before I hit the snooze button was, "A plane has hit the World Trade Center." Great, I remember thinking grumpily, some idiot in a Cessna went off course and has managed to kill himself.
I got up and fired up my computer, intending to check my e-mail quickly before getting ready for the day. My homepage was set to Yahoo.com and the pictures of an airliner flying into the first Tower leaped out at me immediately. I stared at them uncomprehendingly for a few minutes, then switched on the TV and started watching the news coverage. Then I went to wake up Collin and told him what was happening. He got up to watch the news coverage as well, and the two of us just held each other and watched the news in silence. We watched, live, as the second tower fell. Finally, I had to hurry up and get ready so I wouldn't miss my bus to campus.
As it turned out, I really didn't need to rush... shortly after I arrived on campus, I found that they were shutting it down for the day in memory of all those who had died in the attacks. So I took the bus back home.
As far as I remember, Collin and I spent the day moping around the apartment, just trying to process what had happened. I remember being so thankful that nothing like this had happened to the guests who had flown in for our wedding less than two weeks before. I wondered if Collin and I would begin our married life in a nation embroiled in war.
On September 12, 2001, John Paul II said,
Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ’s word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it.
He also offered this prayer:
Brothers and Sisters, in great dismay, before the horror of destructive violence, but strong in the faith that has always guided our fathers, we turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, salvation of his people, and with the confidence of children, pray that He will come to our aid in these days of mourning and innocent suffering.
1. For the Churches of the East and the West, and in particular for the Church in the United States of America so that, though humbled by loss and mourning, yet inspired by the Mother of the Lord, strong woman beside the cross of her Son, they may foster the will for reconciliation, peace, and the building of the civilization of love.
2. For all those who bear the name of Christian, so that, in the midst of many persons who are tempted to hatred and doubt, they will be witnesses to the presence of God in history and the victory of Christ over death.
3. For the leaders of nations, so that they will not allow themselves to be guided by hatred and the spirit of retaliation, but may do everything possible to prevent new hatred and death, by bringing forth works of peace.
4. For those who are weeping in sorrow over the loss of relatives and friends, that in this hour of suffering they will not be overcome by sadness, despair and vengeance, but continue to have faith in the victory of good over evil, of life over death.
5. For those suffering and wounded by the terrorist acts, that they may return to stability and health and, appreciating the gift of life, may generously foster the will to contribute to the well being of every human being.
6. For our brothers and sisters who met death in the folly of violence, that they find sure joy and life everlasting in the peace of the Lord, that their death may not be in vain but become a leaven bringing forth a season of brotherhood and collaboration among peoples.
O Lord Jesus, remember our deceased and suffering brothers before your Father.
Remember us also, as we begin to pray with your words: Pater noster...
O Almighty and merciful God, you cannot be understood by one who sows discord, you cannot be accepted by one who loves violence: look upon our painful human condition tried by cruel acts of terror and death, comfort your children and open our hearts to hope, so that our time may again know days of serenity and peace.
Through Christ our Lord.