In October 2000, we made our first trip to New York City. Rachel was 16 months old and I was almost 40. Didn’t take her as long to get to NYC as it did me! It was truly a magical trip for us. Rachel’s picture had been selected to be on Times Square as a part of the National Down Syndrome Society’s Down Syndrome Awareness month promotions. It was her first time to be selected for this honor. I believe one of her pictures has been in the video nine different times now. Sedgwick CMS, the company Jonathan worked for then, was at the time owned by Marsh & McLennan. Marsh was based in New York City. Jonathan was able to work out a business trip around the National Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome Awareness and a very generous friend insisted that Rachel and I go so we could be there for her first moment of Broadway fame! We are so grateful for this friend’s generosity. More importantly, we cherish the person’s friendship and support. The picture I have posted is of Rachel and me. Jonathan was the photographer. We were on one of those boat tours of the New York Harbor. It was a beautiful day. Not in this one, but in a couple of the pictures you can see the twin towers in the background. That wasn’t significant then.I told Jonathan that I have no idea what I was doing 10 years ago today. He reminded me that we were travelling home from Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Hogs had played Tennessee in football that Saturday. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing nine years and 367 days from today as do most of you. September 11, 2001 forever changed all of our lives. None of our lives were as impacted as those who lost loved ones in the cowardly terrorist attack of 9-11 that was an assault on Americana. Rachel was just two then so fortunately she doesn’t remember it. Of course we were glued to the television for several weeks. They sang God Bless American a lot, and my sweet little two year old would dance and hum and smile. Her particular favorite and mine is Lee Greenwood singing God Bless the USA. We have those pictures with the twin towers in the background in a special place because today they are significant. From time to time we pull them out and show Rachel and explain the significance.
Marsh & McLennan lost 358 colleagues and consultants that day. As a tribute to them, I’ve provided a link to their home page that today honors the memory of those lives. One, Gary Lasko, lived in Memphis and travelled to NYC every week to work. I never met him but I heard about him. As coincidence or fate would have it, his daughter Elise was Rachel’s dance assistant at Ballet Memphis when Rachel took her first ballet class. Elise was a beautiful, graceful young lady. I think of Elise a couple of times a year. I always think of her on 9-11.
That same year my grandmother who had been my best friend growing up died. My grandmother was a character. She loved her family fiercely. She never had much in earthly treasures. Today, I want to close with what I wrote to close our annual Christmas letter in the very historic year of 2001. “While September 11 was a tragic day, another tragic day for me was June 7. My grandmother died. It you will indulge me a little I would like to tell you about her. She lived a rich and full life. I know she is happy in her heavenly home, but I miss her. You see she was my very best friend when I was a little girl. She went to ballgames with me, worked as my 4-H leader, helped me with school events and made the world’s best chicken and dressing. Her life was not always easy but she had an infectious laugh and you could always hear her singing “What a Friend We Have Jesus” as she cooked in the kitchen. I am so thankful that she lived to see my precious Rachel. I am so sad that Rachel will not remember her. The most important thing my grandmother did was to take me to church when I was growing up. She understood and taught me the main thing: to know that God loves me and sent his son Jesus so I could live. She knew that that’s the only thing that really matters when evildoers crash airplanes into buildings. We can’t control evildoers, but if we know the one true and living God, circumstances don’t matter. We hope that as you reflect on this historic year, that you have made the main thing, the main thing.”
For me, the main point of 9.11 or really living every day is just to see that other perspective of life. It was a tremendous blessing that day to be witness to those births and while I can’t imagine the pain suffered by the families who lost someone on 9.11, we have been offered grace in the promise of new life.