A 9/11 memorial is seen June 17, 2021, in a section of Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, N.Y., dedicated to the victims of the the 2001 terrorist attacks. More than 50 people who were killed on 9/11 are interred in the section and elsewhere in the cemetery. Sept. 11, 2021, will mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Living in the Moment

Life will never be the same after 9/11

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Bonnar (new)As a person and bishop, I strive every day to “live in the moment.” While I always attempt to be grateful for yesterday and hopeful for tomorrow, I know so well that all we have is today and the moment before us. I am always grounded in the present every time I pray the Lord’s Prayer, especially when I utter the words, “Give us this day.” Indeed, every day is a blessed gift that comes from God.

Nevertheless, as human beings, it seems that we live in a perpetual tug-of-war between the memories of the past and the dreams of the future. Sometimes, this battle can be so intensely relentless, pushing and pulling us, that we can miss the moment.

For example, who among us has not dreamed about the end of the pandemic and a return to some sense of normalcy? What is more, who has not been caught up in reminiscing about a time that was so innocent, safe and joyful? It is human nature to look back and look ahead, but never at the expense of where we are. The key, of course, is to find a healthy balance in this realm. Prayer can be so helpful in this regard.

In my own life, it is not uncommon from time to time to become “nostalgic.” The dictionary defines “nostalgia” as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” To be nostalgic has also been described as “homesickness” or “returning home.”

Perhaps, my most profound nostalgic moments revert to my childhood. My four siblings and I lived in a three-bedroom ranch with a fenced-in backyard in a paradiselike neighborhood that featured annual block parties and had many of us calling our elder neighbors “aunt” and “uncle.” We were a family not just in our home but in our neighborhood. In our fenced-in backyard, we lived in our own happy world. It was a bubble-free zone from all of the dangers and distractions of the world. Suffice to say, it was an unprecedented time of happiness, safety and joy. I sure miss that time.

This special time, like none other, was extended during the summers when, as a family, we spent time at our cottage in the heart of an amusement park with a lake where we could freely come and go and enjoy rides, games, water and food. It was like living in heaven. We kids did not have a care in the world.

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 in which we witnessed the loss of many lives, I am sure we all recall where we were and what we were doing that day. That day will live on in our minds forever. I don’t think any of us will ever forget the faces covered with terror and ash, not to mention the many precious faces that were never seen again. Nor will we soon forget the heroism of so many who rushed to the scenes and did their best to help those in need, even to the point of losing their lives. And I venture to say that none of us will ever forget what life was like before 9/11 and how different life is today. Even with the best exercise in nostalgic thinking, I am sure you agree that life as we lived it will never be the same again. We need only to visit the airport or go to the stadium to see just how much life has changed. Instead of just implicitly trusting in people’s goodness, we now have to always be wary of evil and bad people. I don’t know about you, but I sure do miss the free, easy and safe life before 9/11. Life is so different.

And yet, hopefully, given all of the loss, we can all say that life is all the more precious. That tragic day cannot help but make us more appreciative of life and how quickly it can end. What is more, I think we are all the more grateful for the lives of our first responders who every day show that they are willing to live in the moment and lay down their lives for us.

Life is different, but hopefully we all are more grateful for the moment and the day that God gives to us. 

BISHOP DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.

 
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