I woke up at the crack of dawn – 7:30am 😉 – got ready and rode the Metrorail to the Pentagon. Huddled in my coat and suffocating in my scarf just to block the biting breeze, I walked to the other side of the building to the memorial.
A man in a blue rain jacket quickly passed me, left something on the ground, and walked away.
Two men in trench coats strolled by, talking in hushed tones. Spy stuff probably.
I thought about taking a selfie, and who would blame me? I’m supposedly a mix of Gen X and Millennial. But all joking aside, wasn’t a practically empty landmark a great moment to take photographs and selfies? And touring alone, I have no choice but to take selfies…with a camera because my phone is not smart. But I couldn’t do it.
Did you know that the youngest victim to have died in the Pentagon attack was 3 years old? She was on the flight. The oldest was also on the flight, he was 71 and a Navy veteran.
I was 16 years old when 9/11 happened. I’ve only been in the country for 5 years and America to me was a place that gave me Disneyland and less asthma attacks. I didn’t know what and where the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were. I didn’t know the significance. I didn’t understand the shock.
Until the video clips rolled in. Until my friends questioned life and God. And I felt it. That need to unite and support each other. That need to struggle through our why’s, fears, and anger. That need to remember and move forward.
I remember my history teacher telling us, “Remember today because 9/11 is your Pearl Harbor.” Remember what you were doing and where you were when you first heard the news. Remember what you felt. And pay attention to what our nation will do.
I walked into my 7 am Spanish class. Hardly anyone was there. My teacher was sitting at her desk, shocked, and listening to the radio. I didn’t pay attention. She always had the radio on because she thought it was important we kept up with the news. I hated listening or watching the news. A classmate came in. “Did you hear about the Twin Towers?” she asked. Did you hear about New York? Did you hear about the planes? Did you hear about the Pentagon? Did you hear?
I snapped one photo and walked back to the Metrorail remembering. I remembered my 3 cousins enlisting, and seeing them maybe once a year, and not knowing what they did or where they were. And I realized something.
Many people only think of America as Disneyland or better air quality or Hollywood. And that’s not such a bad thing. Walking along the Pentagon, I passed by service men and women in their uniforms, military fatigues, and business suits. They were on the way to work and I stuck out like a sore thumb for the tourist that I was.
And it was okay.
Because of them doing their jobs, I am able to stick out like a sore thumb for the tourist that I was.
Because of their sacrifice, I am able to think of America as Disneyland and better air quality.
Because of them, I am able to live in freedom.
That’s my 2015 One Word and I thought of freedom as this:
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” 2 Corinthians 3:17.
Not in terms of countries, patriotism, or service men and women. But just as I have certain rights and receive benefits because of the freedom fought by others, I have certain rights and benefits because of the freedom found in God through the sacrifice of Jesus. Living in His freedom is living in His love, grace, forgiveness, healing, peace, and more.
God’s been showing me that living in His freedom includes His blessings that are tangible, exciting, and desires come true.
My mom had a conference in Washington DC and I had an opportunity to crash in her hotel room. I just had to pay for my flight. I couldn’t. The funds were not there. So I prayed to God about it, but also settled in my heart to continue to praise God even if His answer is no. The week before the trip, He came through in a surprising way.
I tell you this story because I’m more of a God whiner and disappointment settler. When I feel like I’ve been locked out of opportunities, when I feel like God didn’t give me something I prayed so hard for, or when I have blessing envy, I would whine to God or settle in the disappointment thinking that this is just my sad life.
I would say that I believe and have faith that God knows what He’s doing and things will be better tomorrow but really, there’s a stone in my stomach and I start focusing on the bad stuff in life. I wallow in what isn’t. I stop living in freedom because my perspective shifted from God to stuff.
My trip to D.C. has made it clear that freedom isn’t free. I went on the tours and heard history. This much is clear. Buildings burned down for freedom. Lives were lost and taken for freedom. There was a lot of rebuilding, reallocating, rewriting, relearning, and redoing.
Freedom is a grind. It’s something we fight for, strive for, and believe for day after day. Over and over. In the blessings and in the rain. Whether it’s our freedom as people or our freedom in God, living in freedom is a daily exercise.