“Turn on your TV.”
I can hear and feel the words as clearly today as I did those twenty years ago.
I remember it as a stunningly beautiful Tuesday morning.
I recall an especially deep, beautiful, profound extended practice.
I remember seeing the rhythmic flashing of my voicemail indicator and literally thinking to myself that whatever this message says I get to meet it from a spacious and freshly awakened place.
“Turn on your TV.”
I fumbled for the TV remote at the same time as I hit redial on my telephone. If there is onea gap in my memory of that September morning experience it is as to whether I heard my friends voice first or whether it was the horrific images I saw. They seemed to and perhaps they did happend simultaneously.
We spoke very few words. We did not need to. I could hear and feel his breathing as if it were my own. To this day I know in fact it was my own. For all of the stunning and traumatizing images we would see it is the shared breath that I so clearly remember. It was the connection of that shared breath that was my sustaining force and stability as I watched our world forever change.
Three ways calling allowed the gathering of we two to become the communion of we three. The shared breathing and almost wordless spaciousness will forever be the context from which I experienced and remember September 11, 2001.
I had no sense of time as we breathed together and allowed the breath to be our prayer. An indescribable gasp from one of us escaped as the first tower began to rumble down to the ground. Was it me who gasped? Was it her? Him? It felt as if it were the gasp of humanity. I believe it was.
“Turn on your TV.”
How could such a perfect, splendid morning have devolved into this? How did my always highly tuned energy system not perceive that something so dastardly was happening until I heard those words:
“Turn on the TV.”
We three prayed our way through the falling of the first tower. Prayed our way through the collapsing of the second. We prayed wordlessly through image after unspeakable image. Replay after remarkable replay. Commentary after narrative after speculation after prognostication. Words, words, words coming out of that TV.
I do not remember how much time elapsed before I quietly yet resolutely said that we must call our community together and share in a collective energy of prayer. I knew that we must face this together as a faith community. I knew that we much turn off the TV and turn on the shared prayer.
As my then Interfaith community was meeting in a private high school we were asked to wait until the parents of the students had collected their children before we met at the facility. By 3:00 that afternoon we were gathered in a circle of sharing, praying, crying, communion. I still feel the rolling dynamics of that time together. I still feel the power of the connection. The heightened emotional intensity, and also the amplified vibrational luminosity. There was an unmistakable triggering of trauma. There was a floundering in how to meet that. What to do with that. How to meet each other in that. And there was a level of support and compassion that we had never had to call upon before. We had never needed each other that much. We had never needed shared prayer that much. We had never needed community that much.
I knew before reaching home from that communal experience that the almost perfect contemplative morning I enjoyed was the context I would need to meet what was going to occur. I needed to be centered, strong, stable to be able to prayerfully lead the community that was in my charge. I would need increased stamina to draw people together in multiple arenas of prayer in my own and in the greater community. I needed to access an abundant Source of energy to do what I knew was mine to do, while also personally and intimately facing the devastation of what had occurred. I know I needed to find a balance between staying informed and saturating myself with replays of unspeakable evil and tragedy.
I met the events of September 11, 2001, within prayer.
I am meeting the twenty-year-old memories of September 11, 2001, within prayer.
While I know there will be much coverage and televising today of those historic images there is no voice within me advising me to turn the TV on. I do not feel called to replays and commentary.
There is, though, an internal voice that is leading me to keep the prayer energy flowing. I am praying with every memory. Praying with every Soul lost. Praying with every survivor. Every hero. Everyone affected by those images. I am hearing and feeling my every breath just as I did on that day.
I have been blessed to visit that hallowed ground that became known as Ground Zero. I have seen the one tower built to replace and I surmise redeem the two. I have prayed at the memorial site. I have read the names and I have cried my tears. I have heard countless times the echoing words of “turn on your TV.”
Today my television is off.
Today my memories are on.
Today my heart is open.
Today my prayer is vital and flowing.
I have grown strong enough since that fateful day to meet my experiences with a transcendent faith that is fueled my prayer. It is not that my faith may not waiver. It is that my faith always returns to center. I always breathe and I faithfully return to prayer. I know firsthand the power of sharing prayer. Especially but not limited to times of trauma and sorrow.
So, every time I see and hear the words “never forget” I know I never will. I will never forget those images. The suffering and the loss. The towers falling and the spirits rising. I will never forget how I chose to meet those events. With whom I chose to meet those events. What we contributed together as we met those events.
“Turn on your TV.”
Those words ushered in a whole new reality for me. And I, like our world, have never been the same.