The first I heard about it was from William, who called as usual on Tuesday to ask me to send him a audio tape of Sunday's message. Then he said he had to turn around because they were not letting anyone into New York City (where he worked as a dentist) because of something happening at the World Trade Center.
After that, the phone rang non-stop. With no TV, radio or internet at the church, the phone was my only source of information. From it, reports came of the first and then the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crashing of the towers. In between, there were people calling about people of the church who may have been in the city. Mike called asking for Ken, who he thought worked in the World Trade Centers. Then later came the call from Ken, who had ran out of the towers after the first plane hit, and was safe but making the long trip on foot uptown. I thanked him for calling as I wiped away tears. Eventually Ken made his way over the George Washington Bridge and home.
Terrorists, they call it. And it was, even 10 miles away in Montclair, even with no TV to see what was unfolding, there was terror. I wondered what was happening and when it would stop. I wondered if I should pick up my daughter from school and go home. Instead I felt the Lord leading me to stay at my post, keep answering the phone, keep praying in between.
At the end of the day, we sat in front of the TV and watched the story be retold over the news. The fire, the cloud of dust, the surreal shots of the people jumping out of windows to their death below, preferring that to the flames. The three of us drove to Eagle Rock where we knew we could see the buildings, or at least the place where the building once stood. When we got there, no cars were being allowed to enter the reservation, so we parked on the street and walked the winding road to the lookout point.
At the lookout was a mob of people staring at the rising tower of smoke that was the twin towers. And we stood and talked and stared at the remains of the unthinkable tragedy.
It was Wednesday afternoon when I heard about Susan. My mom called me after lunch and said that Susan was in the towers, on the top floors for a business meeting. I had not even thought about her because she usually worked in Summit. No one had heard from her. I wept with my mother, and then prayed with those at the church that afternoon. Later that evening I had a meeting planned and left early to stop at my brother's house so I could tell him the news in person. It was only fair. He had come my my beach house early that morning years before to tell me about Gerald. Now I went to tell him about Susan. How do you start a conversation like that? It was his birthday. It was all unthinkable. Unbelievable. Later I called my Aunt Ann. She asked me to pray that they would find Susan. Her only daughter. Eventually they did find her body, and I thank God for that. Susan was only 54, still beautiful, bright, kind, gracious and loved by all who knew her.
Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., I will return to Eagle Rock, meeting 22 other family members as we remember Susan, and the others who were lost to a morning of terror. Beloved, You promise to wipe every tear from our eyes, indeed that You store up our tears in a bottle. Let the frailness of these bodies and the briefness of our stay here remind us to love You and each other. Comfort us and remind us in the brutality and terror of this world, You are still good and powerful and love us.
Beyond the terror, let us trust You!
When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. -- Psalm 56:3