When I lived in St. Louis, I became a fan of the outdoor musical theatre company called the MUNY, which generally performed 8 shows each summer at one week duration each. The MUNY experience involved 10,000 people sitting shoulder to shoulder in the heat of a Midwest summer night, no air conditioning, giant overhead fans on tall poles that only turned on before the performance, at intermission, and when the curtain calls ended.
The summer of 2002 at the MUNY opened with a play rarely performed in a setting of this nature: The Fantasticks. The Director at the time, Paul Blake, had specifically chosen that musical for that particular year, when the country was still reeling in the aftermath of the terrorists attacks on September 11, 2001. In his opening talk, he reflected that to him, the musical…and one song in particular…captured a spirit of shattered innocence mixed with a palpable longing to go back to a time before everything changed. Or, at least, to commit to recapturing the spirit of innocence as inherently and beautifully human. As my spouse and I often talk about, that theatrical experience captured this with such simple power that it was etched in our memories and inextricably linked with remembering September 11, 2001. So, I invite you to listen to this song as I try to remember what I learned, reflecting back on that day…
I remember what it was like to hear awful, earth shattering news driving in to work and to try, like so many others, to piece together the scraps of information into a crazy quilt of pieced together glimpses of tragic loss and incomprehensible actions.
I remember what it was like to be the messenger, gather enough information, interrupt the meeting my whole office was in, and convey the magnitude of uncertainty amid the certainty of tragedy.
I remember what it was like to know there were people I could not account for who were in, or near, the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
I remember what it felt like to feel compelled to pray, but have no idea to whom or what force I was turning. And I remember at some point, that didn’t matter. And, I started praying by holding the pain and grief and confusion and anger and human longing in my mind and in my heart as sacred space.
I remember desperately wanting to help, and feeling completely helpless.
I remember being overwhelmed by unselfish acts of heroism, and inspired by radical acts of human compassion.
I remember wanting to be at home base. And figuring out where and with whom that was.
I remember deciding that it was worth it to face the next day, and choose to invest in the future. I remember this felt bold, courageous and defiant.
I remember feeling everything had changed.
I remember realizing that there was something constant in the human spirit that moved us collectively forward. I remember thinking this might be a glimpse of the divine.
When I try to remember, I realize the depth of soul learning that has taken place.
I remember small points of light, hope even in the midst of deep tragedy.
Try to remember, and if you remember then follow……..