Like many of you, I have spent much of the morning reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.
I was a sophomore in high school sitting in Mrs. Wood’s French class when word came from down the hall. She turned on the TV in the classroom and tuned it to CNN. Realizing we were witnessing history, I remember Mrs. Wood popping a VHS tape into the VCR and pressing record. I remember how we sat in stunned silence and watched in horror. I remember seeing the second plane hit the second tower live. I remember hearing reports from the Pentagon. I remember watching the towers collapse.
And I remember a few days later how some twenty to thirty classmates and I gathered on the front lawn of our high school for a vigil. We lit candles and listened to one another. We offered prayers and stood in silence. We were young. We had only begun to know how the world had fundamentally changed. We had only begun to make sense of the disorientation and devastation we had experienced. And yet, we knew innately, that we needed to gather. We needed to be with one another. We were drawn to community.
When it was my turn to offer something, I reached into my pocket to pull out a prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. It was a prayer we’d shared together at a church prayer service just a night or two earlier. I’d copied it down on a piece of scratch paper before I left for the vigil that night, and when my time came, I simply read them aloud. Any words I had to offer felt insignificant, but these were timely, timeless, and just felt right.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.
I’ve since committed these words to memory, and I carry them with me still for the moments my own words reach an end — those pits-in-the-stomach and lumps-in-the-throat moments that are hard and heavy. Those moments you’ve done all you can do and said all you can say. Those moments when dependence on the holy is all you have left.
This is why we do what we do week in and week out. This is why we gather. This is the power of liturgy: So that when we need the words, the prayers, the songs, the hope — we’ll have them ready to claim, to cling to, to share. And all we have to do is reach into our pockets and pull them out.
By God’s grace, I join you in prayer and reflection today — lamenting and remembering lives lost, longing for a unity that seems too distant, giving thanks for those who demonstrated the best of us, and praying for a world that is mended and at peace.