By Edward Grinnan
Editor-in-Chief of Guideposts
The last thing I did at work that Monday, September 10, 2001, was make a plane reservation for a business trip the next week. I didn’t think twice about it. Why would I? I flew all the time. All I really cared about was getting an aisle seat.
It had been a perfect, cloudless late-summer day, like the murderous day that was to follow. I’d had lunch with a friend and we sat outside at Bryant Park behind the library and watched our fellow New Yorkers go about their business, absorbed in the daily trials and rewards of life in the city. Dogs chased Frisbees in the park. One jumped in the fountain then shook off, sending pedestrians scattering. The baseball pennant races and various tawdry celebrity scandals made the front pages of the tabloids lining the newsstand. Julee, my wife, was up in the country with the dogs and I planned to go home that night, order some Chinese and watch the Giants on Monday Night Football undisturbed. In retrospect, life seemed very simple and uncomplicated. I’m sure I was not experiencing it that way at the time, but looking back across the divide of 9/11, it feels so innocent to me now.
I have written before about September 10, maybe even a bit obsessively. Most Americans, and especially most New Yorkers, can tell you exactly what they were doing when they first heard about the attacks on the Twin Towers the next day, and I am no exception. I was in the Guideposts offices about 40 blocks uptown of the Towers. When the news broke, my assistant, a part-time EMT and member of the city’s disaster response team, looked at me and simply said, “I have to go.” We didn’t see her again for a week.
Still, it’s the seemingly unremarkable 10th that haunts me, a day when the wheels of fate were silently in motion. And as the years pass it isn’t so much that that day was a line of demarcation; in certain ways it very much was. No, it is more a reminder that tomorrow is always uncertain. We look to the future with optimism and hope but we never know exactly what will come to pass. We can predict but we can’t be certain. I know I will probably get up tomorrow morning and walk my dog, and there is a 30 percent chance it will be raining, according to the weather report. And I would be very surprised if this were not to happen because it happens virtually every morning, rain or shine. The lesson of September 10, 2001, the one I remind myself of every year, is that I need more than my expectations to face the future.
I need faith, the belief that no matter what the next day or week or year or eternity holds, I am in the hands of a loving power much greater than my own hopes and dreams and even fears, greater than my power to imagine what happens next at any given moment of my life. It is only by recognizing that uncertainty that I can truly understand the nature of faith, and experience a deeper joy in knowing that the only thing that is certain beyond today, beyond this very instant, is the eternal presence of a loving God who exists beyond the mortal constraints of space and time. Faith, at its deepest, empowers us not only to face the future but to trust in it, and in my life there has perhaps been no greater test of that trust than the crystalline memory I hold of September 10, 2001.
Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief of Guideposts.