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Monday, May 2, 2011


The first I heard of Osama bin Laden was from a fourteen year old boy.

bin Laden had just murdered his father. Not directly but by directing, funding, inspiring and organizing the action of others.

As I took in the flood of news last night I was myself flooded with the memories. A dark room on a bright morning, a television quietly slipping details into our midst but no one paying attention. People coming and going, airline officials, neighbors, friends, phone calls, sheriff's deputies. I remember late in the afternoon answering the front door to a deputy who shyly asked if he might come in and use the restroom.

Osama bin Laden. An overwhelming flood of data that could barely be attended to. I remember a young teen saying, "we'd better not go to war over this! Find another way."

Darkness. A darkened house. To a darkened house. By the time I got home late at night, my house was dark too. It went on this way for days, weeks. I went from darkness to darkness. My own fault. I got sucked in. Pastors sometimes do. I have no regrets. It's just the way it was.

I commend to you the logical, compelling, lucid comment to my previous blog post. Of course this day had to come. And it should have come 9 and a half years ago, before and without the "national psychosis" stirred up resulting in two wars and mass craziness. I agree with the comment.

This is where my own thinking went off the rails: terrorists are domestic as well as international, familiar as well as strangers, right under our noses and in caves half a world away.

At the time of 9/11 when I became immersed in the pastoral care of two families who lost father, brother, former spouse, I was already dealing with terrorists close at hand. In our church. Someone even commented at the time. "Wow, this is just like...." Crawling out from under a rock to lob their bombshells, to crash their planes, to wreak devastation and then scurry back under into the murky darkness where they regrouped and emerged only to attack again. I already knew more about terrorism on 9/11 than I ever expected, or certainly wanted. And it went on and on and on.

It was MY story I was writing last night. Not America's. It was not my privilege to exercise vengeance on the terrorists who created a catastrophic situation under which I collapsed. But I can't transfer that situation automatically to this national/macro one.

The weeping, I have realized, was my natural regression back to the beginning of that 9/11 experience. Pastors can relate easily to this: I didn't cry for two weeks. I saw the experience almost exclusively through the eyes of people for whom I cared deeply. I saw 9/11 entirely through the experience -- empathy -- of a 14 year old boy. A 40-something mother. A 60-something sister. Especially the boy. Who is now a man! It took the easing of the first phase of the pastoral care process for me to step back and feel for myself. And finally to cry.

Every night I would come home late and sit in a dark family room, the family having gone to bed. Sit. But not think. I was too tired to think. I was, in fact, numb.

Finally, two weeks later, after the funeral - or memorial service, the TV news cameras gone away, a quiet evening, when Saturday Night Live returned to the screen, Paul Simon began to sing "The Boxer." And I began sobbing and didn't stop.

That's my story. Not everybody's. Transference. In the passing years I have railed against the waste of the wars, the terrible injuries to our military, the losses upon losses that have screwed with the hopes and minds and money that is now our legacy to our children.

Discernment. Discretion. Perhaps as we move through this new period in our history, we can teach those lessons to our children. Oh, I hope so.

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