Some Thoughts on Remembering


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On September 11, 2001, I was 17, a senior in high school. That morning all 950 or so of us seniors were herded into the gym to take our class picture. We were all crammed onto the bleachers, making jokes, rolling eyes, acting like teenagers, as some poor photographer tried to get at least one where no one was making a crude gesture or doing something idiotic. I vaguely remember walking back toward my Latin class with my best friend Carrie, probably laughing, we were always laughing. We parted ways and I entered my class to find Mr. Rohleder and all my classmates completely silent, eyes fixated on the TV. I sank into my desk and joined them in their shock, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. I remember going to a couple of more periods, finding that one teacher’s son worked near the pentagon and he hadn’t heard from him and didn’t know anything yet. Eventually a voice on the PA system informed us that if we had access to a car, we could go home. What was the point in staying? No one was teaching.

I spent the rest of the day staring at the news. I was a silly teenage girl and I never watched the news but it was all I could do that day. I remember the looks on my parents faces. They were afraid. My dad had served in the Gulf War and they were no strangers to this growing conflict in the Middle East. And that it had come to U.S. Soil? Terrifying. I remember the horrific death toll. I remember that while many died without any possibility of escape, many chose death in the hope of saving just a few. I remember the look on our President’s face as the news was whispered in his ear. I remember the images of death and smoke and rubble and mourning. I remember. I haven’t forgotten.

And we all have that story. Not that one exactly, of course, but everyone I talk to remembers it in detail. Where they were, who they were with, what they were doing. It’s impossible to forget. But as I scrolled through my Facebook timeline today, seeing post after post reminding me, “Never Forget,” I suddenly realized, this will be forgotten. Now I don’t mean that there will be a time in the future that people don’t know this happened. That’s not possible. But this remembering for those of us who lived that day will one day be gone. I thought of my children, born 7-10 years after that day. This will be a fact in a history book to them. Just as the Challenger explosion is a fact to me, but a very real memory for my mother, who has told me in great detail about that day. Just as the attack on Normandy is a fact to me, but a very real memory for my grandmother, whose husband was not on those boats that day because he had been sent home with Rheumatic Fever. Our children and our children’s children will study September 11 in school. And though it may move them, they will not remember as we do.

That’s such an interesting word, remember. Because, try as we might, we will never remember perfectly. And even if we did, our children certainly wouldn’t be able to carry our memories for us in the same way. And we know that with the passage of time our remembrances will fade into nothingness. That’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?

Well, here’s where I find my hope. See, that word appears a lot in the Bible. Remember. Primarily, it appears when God tells His people to remember, and when God’s people ask HIM to remember.

Over and over and over again in the Old Testament God’s people are told to remember that God delivered them from slavery. “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you from there.” Remember, remember, remember. But what do they do? They forget. I’m sure they said to one another, “Never forget!” But those who were there grew old and died, and their children’s children knew they should remember, but their remembrances faded with the passage of time, just as ours do. Each command to remember is like that…impossible to obey. Impossible without a God who never forgets.

But this God I worship, He really does remember. He remembers everything. He remembers all that has taken place and knows all that is happening now and sees all that is coming. Most importantly, He remembers that which His people have begged Him to remember since the beginning. His promises.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people…as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies…to show the mercy¬†promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant.”

These are the words of Zechariah, a priest of God’s people and a prophet. Jesus is coming. God hasn’t forgotten. He’s remembered. And He has become God with us.

What does all this have to do with remembering September 11? Well, nothing, at first glance. But as I remember the tragic events of that day, the lives lost, the fear, the destruction, the evil, the bravery, I also want remember that all the tragedies we face in this life are – whether huge, significant, and terrifying, like September 11, or small, but deep and personal, like the loss of a parent or the failure of a marriage or living with a chronic illness – these are not missed by our God.

He is not far from us. He is with us. And He has remembered His promises. We find our hope in Him.

1 comment

  1. Brynn

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