Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11

We watched the special that started as a documentary about a young fireman's coming-of-age in NYC, shot by two brothers; I taped it both times. The rebroadcast had a little extra footage, and I'd thought to use it as a teaching tool somehow, or perhaps in my role as emergency preparation guy here at my school I'd review it once in a while. My wife, who is from New York, can watch the whole thing now, which shows some healing on her part. The common fate of all living creatures, we know, is each organism's death.

I can't help but contrast that sudden, massive and very public loss of those mostly strangers to me (one man was the father of a student who'd just graduated) with a recent funeral we attended with our old friends back at St. John's. Margaret Hughes was the widow on Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, one of our Rectors at St. John's and a New Testament scholar and professor at Westminster. We buried her and moved Philip from where he was over at the old building in Huntingdon Valley (ask me about Episcopal Church politics sometime) to the same site in New Britain. We'd finished with the part for Mrs. Hughes and had to wait for the second casket to arrive to be reinterred. We stood in the drizzle for a hour catching up with old friends, checking out the cranes and equipment the undertakers use to lower caskets, peering into the hole to see how deep it was...! Marion was in good spirits, everyone knew Mrs. Hughes as a lovely old believer and that her frame had been failing her gently over the last few years, and it was an okay time for her to pass, and we all gathered back at one of Marion's neighboor's for some really nice food, and they turned out to be a couple I'd known back in high school. All in all, one of the nicest funeral afternoons I've ever spent!

I've lost both grandfathers, a brother-in-law, and a student in recent years, and there is always a degree of readiness felt or missing to the procedure of departure. Thinking back five years, the horror of it all was the violence but also how sudden it was and how helpless we were. After the school was closed and my own family was accounted for and gathered in, I think I watched the coverage all that night and into the next day.

I think it would take this essay in the wrong direction to talk about politics, except that I'm deeply distressed at having felt gung-ho and justified at seeing the invasion of Iraq take place, and the statue fall, and all that, then to find out we never really had much in the way of nuclear capability to pin on that regime nor was there a real connection between them and the forces behind the events of five years ago.


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