Eighteen years ago today, I was in the third grade.
I got on the bus like any other day, went to my classroom and unpacked my things, said hello to all my friends, and went to art class. In retrospect, now knowing what would happen after that usual morning routine, my life up until that point was the “before” in a world that is now so different in the wake of the “after.”
I was too young to really grasp the ways that life had changed “after.” Third graders don’t really even think much about the “before.” I was too young to know the gravity of what had happened and the consequences it would have on the future. I was just trying to get through my day without spilling on my shirt and getting in fights with my brothers. But even in my young naivety, I knew that this was something that mattered, something bad.
Art was different that day.
My class filed in, but we weren’t greeted by our teacher in the normal way. Instead, we were greeted by a news reporter, speaking over radio waves about a plane hitting some building I didn’t even know about in New York City. Sure, it sounded bad, but New York is halfway across the country. Why were we listening to their news?
That was the question all my classmates were whispering to each other as we hauled out our supplies and began to work on our projects. What’s going on? Why are we listening to this? And then something happened that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. My art teacher, leaning over the radio and hanging on every word, buried her face in her hands in disbelief. We all looked at each other and knew that whatever had happened that day in New York City was a big deal, no matter where you lived in America. That’s the moment I realized that something had changed.
When I got home from school that day, I saw the footage of what had happened on TV. In fact, that’s all that was on TV for a really long time. Soon there would be news of declaring war, of angry and devastated Americans who had lost loved ones, of people looking for answers and revenge. The president was on TV almost every day – more than I’d ever seen him before. Even to an 8-year-old, it was obvious that life was different now; the world was more complicated than it had seemed before.
Living in the World of "After"
Eighteen years later, we live in the world of “after.” The way we travel is different. We've become much more guarded. Our government and our country’s ideals have changed with the effects of “after,” whether we realize it in all its complexity or not. Third graders today have never lived in the “before.” They will never know what it was to live in a time before the tragic events of that day. To them, the images they will see and the stories they hear today will be a piece of history – something they hear of but don’t directly connect to.
We can never predict what will be written into history, nor can we change it once it occurs. But how we live in the wake of history is ours to deal with. Make no mistake – we live in a different world. My future children will live in an even more complex and different world than we do now. Perhaps now, in the wake of what has happened in history and looking forward, we should be in prayer more than ever for wisdom. We, and the generations to follow, need guidance to live in the world of “after” from the One who is able to conquer all and heal all brokenness.