Where were you when the world stopped turning?


People / Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

I’m two weeks late on this post, I know; I’ve been bizzy.

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Confession: On September 11, 2001 when my big brother called the office to tell me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, I didn’t even know what the World Trade Center was.

In my defense, I was an 18-year-old Mennonite girl; although considering the fact that I had visited some fifteen countries of the world in my brief and sheltered life up to that point, it’s not much of an excuse.

When he called me back half an hour later to tell me the second plane had crashed, I felt mildly irritated with him for making such a big deal of this and keeping me from my work.

In my defense, this was the brother who hovered above me all my growing up years, and watched for cars and chased away dragons and in general made himself a pain in the neck when I wanted to be adventurous and independent; although considering the fact that I had survived to adulthood I should perhaps have realized by then the debt of gratitude I owed him.

In short, my world did not stop turning that September day.

It stopped turning seven days earlier, when a boy in my youth group left for a brief test run on his motorcycle and did not come back. They found his body in the ditch and his loose-strapped helmet thrown several yards away; they found the shaken driver of a small red pickup truck, who said “I couldn’t miss him. He didn’t make the corner.”

That was when my sheltered little world stopped turning, not because of that boy but because I realized with a sudden and deadly shock, as all Americans realized one week later, bad things can happen to us.

When you encounter this thought for the first time in your life, it leaves quite a mark. Until then you sort of know that the people you love will always be there, and that bad things happen, out there… somewhere… The day it bites you hard is the day the world stops turning. It was months before I could kiss my baby brother goodbye without thinking Is this the last time I am going to see you? He was two years old that fall, and adorable.

I always think of Hank this time of year. He was quiet and easy-going and after he was gone we realized we didn’t know him as well as we could have. But his cousins were some of my dearest friends, and it hurt; not one of us in that youth group will ever forget.

youth-group
Sept 2001. Henry Wengerd, front row far right, the weekend before his death.

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Where were you on September 11? What kind of a mark did it leave?

6 Replies to “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”

  1. So true. Our world stopped turning a week earlier. There were conversations on the way home from that camping trip that I will never ever forget. The one sentence was, “what if one of us would die”? Never imagining that could possibly happen. Two days later it did. He was a wonderful guy and his smile will never be forgotten:)

  2. This touched my heart! The memories, lots of good and some not so pleasant, come flooding back! The conversation I had with him on the way back from camp just 24 hours earlier would have been way different had I known (I wonder if he did)? Restoration is beautiful but why did it have to be so tragic to get there? A reminder again to never take loved ones for granted! And September 11, a quiet subdued little youth group full of whys and what next questions , standing in front of the DLM building ready to go play sand volleyball when a jet flies the lonely skies above. Scared and unsure we tried to have some fun but it didn’t come easily! Praising God for healing and thanking him for scars so we never forget!

  3. I wonder too if Hank knew. That weekend as he shared a devotional with us, he talked about an angel touching him that morning on the shoulder. Remember?

  4. Thanks for this, Shari! It’s funny how a huge, life-changing event makes you remember all the little details over that time. Such as Gabriel getting you to kiss a frog for $5 when we went down to the river after the funeral. Oops, is that telling?! 🙂
    I wonder, too, if he didn’t have a sense of dying?? He talked about canceling his ticket to go to the Grand Canyon with the guys but when I asked him if he isn’t going he hesitantly said, “well, yea.” On the way home from camp he asked me a very pointed question on what would happen with so-and-so if he would ever not be here to pray/look out for them. Looking back, he made quite a few references to leaving but never once did we think that he would leave like that! What an impact his death had on the whole community.
    I value the moments we did have with him and I breathe another prayer of thanks to our Father for the loved ones I do have with me right now. Life is a beautiful gift!

    1. I remember the frog and the money, and have often wished all money were earned that easily; but was it really the night of the funeral? That makes me ashamed. I must have been on the rebound from too much crying.

      Thanks to each of you girls for your words and memories…

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