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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where were (are) you?

Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Hiroshima, Nagasaki are "where were you" moments for my parent's generation.  I was born seven years after the end of World War II.  The images and words of these events in my personal memory come from the stories, books, photos, and movies of others where for the most part good guys were romanticized and bad guys were demonized.  Yellowing folders of discolored construction paper from elementary school are littered with childlike drawings of planes, ships, and soldiers battling "the enemy."  Audie Murphy and John Wayne were my heroes.

It wasn't until October, 1962 that I would have my first and own "where were you" moment.  Seared in my memory is the somber voice of President Kennedy talking about missiles in Cuba.  Then there was Nov. 22, 1963.   Five years later when I was 16 years old, and entire year was filled with personal "where were you" days and moments, among them: Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and my own daddy's sudden death.  There were also thousands of television images from a place called Viet Nam.

"Where were you" moments are of course not always tragic.  In the wee hours of a July morning in 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon.  There were high school  and college graduations.  Then came the first time I saw my future wife, and our wedding day.  The births of our daughters. An inner voice calling me into a new life of ministry.

Twelve years ago today I sat in my car in the parking lot of the Forsyth, Georgia Post Office and listened to the early and confused reporting of a "apparently small" aircraft flying into one of the World Trade Center towers.

There is an entire generation alive today who have a similar  relationship with what we simply call "9/11" as my generation had with World War II.  They have no memories of their own, only what they read, hear, and see - only what is passed on to them.

My question today is simple.   How do we remember, individually and collectively, not just 9/11 but all of the "where were you" tragedies of our lives in ways that honor lost life with integrity without perpetuating the dehumanizing anger and fear?   Perhaps another question we can ask in not so much "where were you?" but rather "where are you?"



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