This September air is clear, fresh, and infused with a welcome autumnal chill after a hot and humid Indiana summer. The sky is brilliant, deepest blue. My 1972 VW Beetle purrs along, skimming over the curvy road through the countryside into town. Instinctively, I know it's time to stop at the gas station, even though I have no fuel indicator in this ancient but faithful little red car.
After filling up the tiny tank, I go inside to pay.
Normally, this early in the day, I have nothing to say to the girl at the till and she has nothing to say to me, beyond "hi".
So I'm startled out of my silent appreciation of the beauty of this morning when she breaks the stillness.
"Have you heard the news yet?" She replies to my nod in the negative with a simple statement. "A plane flew into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. They think it's a terrorist attack."
Back in the car, I puzzle over her words, but don't take them extremely seriously. Exaggeration characterises the passing on of news in this town.
I arrive at work, and the import of the truth of the girl's words slowly sinks in. With my fellow employees, I begin the day's tasks in unusual quietness, as a constant stream of information from the radio punctuates our movements. After a while, most of us cease our pretence of working and stand near the radio, as the events in New York, and then Washington DC and Pennsylvania play out in our hearing. Others get online. There are phone calls, and news from the outside trickles in from arriving patrons. Rumours are voiced: of employees being sent home from the local naval surface warfare and munitions plant, of more missing planes.
In the midst of all of this we continue our awkward attempts at maintaining the usual, as if in the performance of our normal tasks, we will find some sort of solace from this awful day.
But there is no solace. None as we listen to the panicked voices on the radio as they agonise over the collapse of the towers. None as we stand in stunned silence, comprehending the impact of the instant death of thousands. None as we contemplate the future.
And the postscript to that day?
War. Of course.
Somehow, we still have not learned how to follow Jesus so fully that we are capable of turning the other cheek to our enemies.
"You, my church, told me it was wrong to kill... except in war.
You, my teachers, told me it was wrong to kill... except in war.
You, my father and mother, told me it was wrong to kill... except in war.
You, my friends, told me it was wrong to kill... except in war.
You, my government, told me it was wrong to kill... except in war.
But now I know, you were wrong, and now I will tell you,
my church, my teachers, my father and mother, my friends, my government,
it is not wrong to kill except in war...
It is wrong to kill."
-US army veteran George Mizo
"Nevertheless, to you who are listening, what I say is this: 'Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.'"
-Jesus [from Luke 6.27-28]