“Honey, couldn’t you put off your trip to New York for a week or so? I just feel this baby is coming early,” my daughter asked her husband. And so he was not at his meeting at the top of the Twin Towers on that morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
He was instead in London for the birth of his son, and he has had the privilege of raising Emmett Morehead to a rowdy almost-10-year-old. (His dad has never and will never speak of his good fortune. So many of his friends and associates were lost that day.)
California: minimal impact here, the Easterners thought. Too far from New York. Wrong!
We all remember where we were and what we did Sept. 11. Because I didn’t know what else to do with myself, I went ahead to my yoga class that morning. I wanted to be with people. I needed to get beyond the screams and the carnage. We worked together quietly in that class. Then I heard the instructor speaking gently.
“We have so much to be grateful for,” she said to no one in particular. This was what I needed. It was a turning for me, the beginning of a mental change from mindless reacting — to mindful acting.
The next morning, Sept. 12, the group of religious leaders in our community called the Ministerial Association met for its regular monthly meeting — this time in my home church, the Christian Science church in San Luis Obispo.
(We rotate among our churches.) I wondered whether anyone would show up. Well, people whom we had not seen in years came to this meeting. Our Sunday school room was overflowing as more and more crowded in.
Desolate about this cruel rip in our interfaith fabric, we could not see how we could possibly comfort our congregations if we could not comfort ourselves. Our Muslim members were distraught and fearful for their families. We poured out our hearts to each other for hours that day.
And we began to feel an important turning for that organization that bore fruit over the next days and years. Honestly, it was never the same after that meeting. We made the decision to drop all busy work (which we had more than enough of in our own churches) and to sit down and listen to each other. To somehow figure out how to build bridges of understanding among our diverse faith communities. To really listen to each other. To listen for understanding.
Ten years later, I have to say that this determination to not go down into a problem in abject reaction — but to get on with it and figure out how to act together in a positive way — is paying off big time for that organization. But that’s another story.
And this is a fresh, new day, bringing its own new light. Light often symbolizes clarity, freshness, openness. Fear, hatred, prejudice, terrorism itself depends on the absence of light. And on this 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, we just might be letting in a little light. As the apostle Paul said, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Back to that baby born only days after Sept. 11 in 2001: Remember that our country sank into a deep fear and uncertainty and literally ground to a halt as we tried to comprehend the horror of this attack. All flights were canceled. We collectively held our breath as we prayed and mourned, not knowing whether our world would ever be the same.
The reason I got on the first flight out to London — me and the Air Marshals (remember them?) — was that I had to hold that baby. Hold him and thank him for being for me a little beam of light in the chaos, and for saving my son-in-law. And so 10 years later I will do the same next week, attempt to grab this rowdy 10-year-old and hug him quick.
And now an invitation for you. Join me and your neighbors today for the 10th anniversary interfaith worship service of remembrance and hope. We’ll sing, pray and listen to each other, and hopefully let in a little more light.
The public is invited to a free interfaith worship service on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 today at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, at Morro and Marsh streets in San Luis Obispo. It is sponsored by The San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association and the Central Coast Clergy & Laity for Justice. For more information, contact the Rev. Jane Voigts at 543-7580; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol McFall, a member of the Christian Science Church on Garden Street, is a past president of the Ministerial Association of San Luis Obispo.