friday, the fourteenth of september, two thousand one
innocence lost

I have a tradition with two women I work with. Cassie started at the Firm the same day I did, and we met Lianne during our two-day tobacco orientation. The day after orientation was our first payday, and the three of us decided to treat ourselves to lunch at the fairly swanky Italian restaurant across the street.

And thus the payday lunch tradition was born. We average about every other payday, sometimes the day before or day after, depending on our schedules. Sometimes we eat at Winstead's, a Kansas City chain of burger joints, one of which is quite conveniently located in our building. Sometimes we walk across the street to the food court next door, and sometimes, when we all have time, we venture out into the world in a car and have a leisurely two-hour lunch and gabfest.

On Monday, we made plans for a payday lunch today. We were going to grab sandwiches next door and take them to the courtyard in front of the Kansas City Star (our daily newspaper), because the courtyard contains Cows depicting the characters in the Wizard of Oz, and I want pictures of them before all the Cows disappear later this month.

On Monday, I was concerned about the Cows.

At about 10:30 this morning, I discovered that the Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, a beautiful stone church about four blocks from my office, was going to have a prayer service at 12:30. Lianne couldn't leave the office, but Cassie said she'd go with me.

It was a beautiful day here today. Sunny, not too warm, a bit breezy even. Cassie and I chatted on our way to the church, discussing the only thing there is to discuss, how we were handling it, what had moved us most over the past few days.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

Old words with new meaning. And new words to an old melody:

O God, our words cannot express
The pain we feel this day.
Enraged, uncertain, we confess
Our need to bow and pray.

We grieve for all who lost their lives
And for each injured one
We pray for children, husbands, wives
Whose grief has just begun

The minister gave a brief sermon, suggesting that perhaps we, as fellow Americans half a country away from the disaster, could ease our feelings of helplessness by focusing our efforts on needs in our own community, which, while it seems obvious, I hadn't really thought of before. That by helping people in need in our own backyard, we honor those whose tragedy inspired us.

We offered the Prayers of the People, then sang the only possible song with which we could conclude. It's actually four verses long, and we sang the familiar first and very unfamiliar fourth:

Oh! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Cassie and I walked the four blocks back to the office in silence. There was nothing to be said.

Here is what I am grateful for tonight:

~ being able to call my mother and find something to laugh about (which was my 95-year-old grandfather joking that he thinks God might have forgotten about coming to get him)

~ the Firm having a Jeans Day for the Red Cross ($5 donation to wear jeans to work) and pledging to match whatever the employees raised, which usually totals around $2000 but today reached $14,000

~ a unanimous vote in both houses of Congress

~ the men and women of the FBI who are suspending their own personal grief and mourning to work tirelessly to do things like determine the names of all the hijackers within 48 hours

~ the reporters and newscasters who are also putting their own grieving processes on hold to provide the rest of us with information and images

~ the cheers of the New York rescuers as they rallied around the President

~ hearing the U.S. national anthem during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

~ the three minutes of silence observed by thousands of people around the world in support and sympathy

~ the people who trained the guide dog who led a blind executive down 78 floors of 1WTC

~ the man who stayed behind to wait with a quadriplegic friend for rescue that never came

~ the men and women who tried in vain to rescue them

~ the people on United Airlines Flight 93 who, once they knew what was happening, refused to go down without a fight

While speaking with my mother this afternoon, I asked her if this was what it was like when Kennedy was assassinated. She said that was probably more like what the U.K. went through when Diana died. This, this is so much worse.

But there is one similarity, pointed out on the news last night. Our parents' generation lost their collective innocence on the day Kennedy was shot.

We lost ours on Tuesday.

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