On September 11th, 2001, I spent my morning in freshmen biology taught by Ms. Burke. Several minutes into class, we received notice that a plane struck one of the World Trade Center buildings. Immediately, we switched on the classroom television and kept our gaze locked for the remainder of the class. It was in my second class of the day when we watched one of the towers collapse. Growing up as an American teenager was never the same after that day-suddenly, the threat of terrorism seemed closer than ever.
One year later, my central Virginia community was on edge because of the murderous rampage of the D.C. Beltway sniper. One evening, on the way home from a high school marching band competition helicopters circled overheard while the interstates were shut down to prevent the sniper’s escape. For nearly a week, county schools were out of session for fear that the sniper would harm children. Not long after these experiences, America was a nation at war. Over the course of those high school years, the world no longer seemed as safe as it had on September 10, 2001.
On September 10, 2012, I spent my evening with a group of Belmont University students, many who are just beginning their college experience. With September 11th on my mind, I thought about these young people who were most likely 7, 8, 9, or 10 years old when the towers were struck. They may or may not remember when violence was unleashed on Columbine High School-but they’ve heard about the massacre at Virginia Tech. They probably didn’t watch news coverage of the initial bombing raids in Iraq; though they know that the United States was mired down in two long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They most certainly know about the young man who unleashed a rampage of armed violence at the ‘Dark Knight Rises’ premiere in Aurora, Colorado.
So on this day, I invite you who come across this piece of writing to pause for a moment and do a small bit of reflection.
- What is your experience of violence in the communities where you grew up, live, work, study, and play?
- What are/were the defining political and social events that deeply shape your experience of the world as a young adult?
- Has the church ever provided an alternative way or resistance to the violence that pervades our communities?