A 9-11 Memory of a Different Kind: Resiliency Renewed
Ten years ago today, my best friend Lea Pascoe and I were standing at the top of the ancient walled city of Assisi, Italy, looking out over the vast, flat Umbrian countryside. Suddenly bells all over the city began tolling, their various tones bouncing off crenelated walls and stone towers. A massive roar came in from the distance. Four Italian Air Force jets screamed low over the fields. The jets suddenly turned 90 degrees and shot up into the sky with three of them sending respective trails of red, white and blue. The fourth jet peeled away and disappeared into the atmosphere. “Oh my God, Lea. Today is September 11—one year ago today…” No more words came. We stood there sobbing, clutching each other as tears streamed down our cheeks. All of Assisi - from residents to the many tourists were caught in that gesture of remembrance. It was only then that Lea, sobs coming harder now, told me she had lost a friend who worked in one of the towers. Sometimes, one cannot even speak of loss until the waters of time have flowed. How clearly I recall talking out loud to myself as well as anyone who could hear. “What are the odds that we are here, today, in a city made famous by a man who wrote ‘Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon.” In the time since that horrific event, I am reminded of those radically resilient people who took personal tragedy and followed the instructions of St. Francis of Assisi. Melody Homer, wife of Captain Leroy Homer, First Officer of United Airlines #93 when it crashed in Shanksville, PA started the Leroy Homer Foundationto offer scholarships to young people who want to become professional pilots. Susan Retik and Patti Quigley both lost husbands in the towers’ collapse. Their shared grief became “ Beyond the 11th”, a non-profit foundation to help Afghan widows. As their website states : “Afghan widows are highly vulnerable and trapped in an ever-deepening cycle of extreme poverty and helplessness. Beyond the 11th funds programs that help widows gain the skills necessary to generate their own income and become self-sufficient. We strongly believe that education and empowerment are the keys to creating lasting social change.” It seems to me that compassion and action are hallmarks of the resilient human spirit that refuses to be defined by events or limited by narrow views, imprisoned by hatred, or confined by only personal self-interest. St Francis would instruct us even more. “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” On this September 11, my hope for a world that seems to have spiraled into hatred and rigid lines is that we would honor the memory of all our brothers and sisters who die in needless violence. I can’t influence world events, but I believe I must practice more closely the words of St. Francis. One does not have to be religious to resonate with the very human desire to live in such a manner. P.S. My dear friend Lea died suddenly this past December. Her untimely death stunned all of us and left so many with words unsaid and probably deeds undone. Perhaps today, we might also take the time to tell our family and friends what they mean to us. Tomorrow might not come.