When I was younger, my father shared his memories of walking along Madison Avenue in New York City on November 22, 1963. He remembered hearing the news pour from doorways that President Kennedy had been shot and was dead. He recalled complete strangers talking and weeping together in the streets. I reflect on Dad’s memories and this type of connection, as I remember my experience 16 years ago today.
At the time, I taught literature in Jersey City, New Jersey, at McNair Academic, an honors magnet high school which was a veritable United Nations of people of every ethnicity and religion. The school was noted for both its strong spirit and its ardent respect for diverse beliefs within the community. Several colleagues took me under their wings so I would know that I belonged, just as I took my freshmen class under mine.
And how all our wings expanded when we watched across the Hudson River, out classroom windows, as billowing, black smoke engulfed the Twin Towers. While that day remains surreal to me in many ways, the feelings of warmth, support, and care endure. That day, I was among a team of teachers, counselors and administrators who helped students prepare to return home, make phone calls (when phones actually worked) and face the unimaginable injury or death of a loved one.
Only when I reached the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike, where a police officer asked to see my license and registration, did I realize the magnitude of events and my ministry in something greater than myself. I also remember my depth of faith, and the love and harmony among both friends and strangers. I witnessed how peace and compassion are a spiritual practice when we remember that God’s Presence is always active, no matter where we live or who we are.
Despite what some religious leaders profess or news headlines declare, God is not a capricious ruler, assassinating Its creations with bullets, earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes. God is Divine Creator, unconditionally loving, infinitely compassionate, surrounding us always in ever-abiding grace, the moment we choose to receive it.
Let us remember, then, not only where we were once upon a time, when our world churned. Let us also remember who and whose we are. Even when towers collapse, mud slides, fires burn or hurricanes storm, we each are divine creations and expressions of God, living in a holy place, part of a worldwide beloved community, all the time.
© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.