I remember that morning. After leaving my monastery I was stationed at St. Nicholas Cathedral, the Orthodox Church in America’s national Cathedral in Washington, DC. The Cathedral is right next to the Vice-President’s property. I was living in the Rectory two houses down from the Cathedral and that morning was so startlingly beautiful, the sky such a clear blue, and the temperature so perfect. I needed to go to the bank that morning and since the day was so gorgeous I had decided that I would walk to the bank as soon as I finished some computer work. While tapping away I heard the downstairs kitchen door slam shut and then heard the other resident of the house pounding up the stairs. His head suddenly popped into my doorway and he startled me when he shouted, “A plane just crashed into one of the Twin Towers! Turn your tv on!” The sight of the smoke billowing out of the building was horrifying enough, but nothing compared to watching the second plane actually slam into the other tower! I watched as a couple, high up in one of the towers, eventually stepped out of the burning building and, hand in hand, sailed off into eternity. That was the moment that everything changed for me.
I never got to the bank that day; in fact, I watched the television broadcasts non-stop for three days. When I eventually emerged into the daylight I stepped into a different world. On many of the DC sidewalk corners there were military with rifles. Traffic could no longer go past the Pentagon. Trucks were being stopped and inspected. About six times a day a Secret Service helicopter flew low over the Vice-President’s property and the Rectory, flying so low that the dishes actually rattled in the cabinets. But change had not only come to the world outside of the house; without my noticing, the event had changed me as well. For about four or five months afterwards the slightest thing could make tears suddenly flow down my face: Something happy, something sad, something completely innocuous… it didn’t matter what it was, everything and anything made me cry. I wondered if I was losing my mind. After about six months I came to understand that the tears were a manifestation of a low-grade depression and anxiety created by the terrible events of that day.
For those three days I couldn’t keep from making comparisons with the day that John F. Kennedy was shot. On that November day in 1963 life everywhere came to a complete standstill for three days. No one shopped, no one went anywhere because we all were glued to the television, just as on 9-11. I remember watching as Oswald was shot to death on live tv!
We take for granted how life flows mostly unnoticed from one day to another… until something completely out of the norm occurs, which event then becomes a marker between “before” and “after”. Every 9-11 anniversary now reminds me to not waste time, to not put things or relationships off until a tomorrow which may never arrive.