Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2002

On September 11, 1973, a friend of mine gave birth to her first born son, Ricky. We were delighted and he was delightful, one of the first of the babies born to the group of friends that I had hung around with in college. Soon, of course, there were babies everywhere Ricky's mother and I and our other friends spent a lot of time together playing bridge while the babies crawled around on the floor, and in the evenings we all got together with our husbands.

Later, we were in a prayer group together, and then an intentional community, so we were around all throughout Ricky's childhood and that of his brother Chris. Later, the group drifted apart and we would only see each other at wedding and funerals and on other special occasions. 

On September 11, 2002, when the rest of the country was thinking about the first anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, I got a call from Ricky's mother saying that they had found him dead. They weren't sure exactly what it was, but some combination of drugs and alcohol. Sometime between her call and the funeral one of my daughters called to tell me about the death of one of her friends. 

Ricky's funeral was held in the parish in which we had lived for 24 years, and where our children had gone to school before we began to homeschool. As I looked around the church, I saw the parents of all those babies that had brought us so much joy, and other friends who we had met over the years, and there was not one family there who did not have at least one child that had been through some of the terrible things that young people do go through. I was so angry. I don't remember another time when I felt such grief. I could barely make it up to receive Communion, but then, I had to because that was my only hope.

In the next couple of months, I heard of similar deaths of two other men in their late twenties who I knew slightly. One was the son of a homeschooling friend of mine; the other had just married a young woman whose family had been very close to ours when our children were in school. It made me a little nervous about answering the phone.

There's no great epiphany coming here--no moment when everything was suddenly all right. Long before any of this happened, I knew where to take grief like that, and I took it there, and slowly things got back to normal. My children are all delightful now and they won't ever be teenagers again, so that helps.

So on September 11 every year, this is what I think about. I pray for those families, and for that young bride, and that those young men will find the peace that eluded them here. If you have a minute, you might say a prayer for them too.



  1. "they won't ever be teenagers again, so that helps." Amen and thanks be to God.

  2. This is hard for me to read, Janet, partly (of course) because you're talking about real people, but also partly because it makes me fearful of what lies ahead. My children are so happy, and so full of wonder right now. The same is true of the children of our friends. It frightens me to think that the world is going to go to work on them all, that even loving families will not escape.

    I think of that sequence in The Tree of Life, after the boy drowns in the pool, in which the preacher expounds upon the fact that no-one can hide from evil, that grief will find us all. "Is there anything deathless?" he asks, and the camera swings up to a stained glass image of Christ. That is our hope, I know, but it is terrible to think of what might happen in the meantime.

  3. I've though long and hard about how to respond to you, Craig, and I'm still not sure how useful anything I say will be. When my oldest was still quite young, one or two, I was reading the story of Abraham and Isaac and it seemed to me that what I had to do was offer my children to God with the same surrender and trust that Abraham manifested, knowing that terrible things could happen, but trusting that somehow God would protect them in the midst of those terrible things--not their bodies necessarily, but their souls, and that I might not even live to see how He accomplished that. And I have been able to do that, and it has sustained me through many very dark times. And, of course, if I, who am really very selfish and weak, can love them so much, I know that that can only be because He loves them so very much more, and that He won't ever desert them.


  4. Thank you for that, Janet. It's not an easy thing you say, but I know it must be right. So far being a parent has been "hard" in a relatively straightforward way: it's physically tiring. I know that things will get more complicated as the years pass. With God's help, I hope we'll be up to it.