Five years ago this morning I was still in bed around 7:30am Pacific Time when I received a phone call. I decided to let my “old school” message machine pick it up. As the the phone stopped ringing and the person began to leave the message I heard my younger cousin Marielle leave the message, “Rhett, I was just calling to make sure Wyatt is okay. Call me back!” I was laying there in bed thinking to myself, “Why would Wyatt my brother not be okay.” So I got up immediately and called my cousin who was in her high school class. She answered the phone and I asked, “What are you talking about?” Then she began to relay to me the horrible news of the attacks on the World Trade Center. I could not believe what was coming out of her mouth, so I immediately ran to the TV and watched the horror unfold.
My brother Wyatt lives in Washington D.C. and I called him right away, but I could not get through because the cell phone lines were not working. I called and called all day long until I finally got a hold of him late into the night, making sure he was okay. I spent the next couple of days in front of the TV on September 11th and 12th, and probably even the days after that. Nothing made sense.
I had just moved to Pasadena from Arizona to finish up my Master of Divinity degree that I had started at the Fuller Seminary extension in Phoenix and was completing in Pasadena. The last few months before that move had been some of the best times of my life. I had lived in Guatemala from mid-March to mid-June, studying Spanish, doing volunteer work and traveling through Central America by bus. I had then traveled through Syria, Jordan and Israel with classmates and friends from Fuller. It was an amazing time. And all of this had culminated in my move to Pasadena. And now, nothing seemed to matter at all. Not school. Not vocations. Not traveling. Only family and friends.
I remember spending the next few days pondering what I should do. School barely seemed to matter now in light of what was happening in the world. As I prayed and thought about what to do next with my life, though I knew I was going to stay in Pasadena, I still needed to try and make sense of things if that was possible. Making sense of things was really not possible, but I went to the Fuller bookstore and picked up a book to try and help me understand why I should still study in a time like this. The book was Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis, which contained the essay, “Learning in War-time. In it, Lewis says,
A university is a society for the pursuit of learning. As students, you will be expected to make yourselves…into what the Middle Ages called clerks: into philosophers, scientists, scholars, critics or historians. And at first sight this seems to be an odd thing to do during a great war.
War makes death real to us, and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past…. All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered on this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it. Now the stupidest of us knows. We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it. If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered.
Five years later have come and passed and I can hardly believe it. Where has the time gone? How easy it is to forget what happened five years ago. Lord we pray in times like these,
A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD