The gift of safety

September 11, 2008 | 16 comments

When I sat glued to my television seven years ago this morning, watching the terrorist attacks of 9/11 unfold in all their horror, I recall thinking that one of the most terrifying ways to die would be to be on one of those planes. I have some fears about flying, so I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the sense of rage and injustice mixed with all-consuming dread that those poor people must have felt in their last moments. That’s about as bad as it gets, I thought.

As the anniversaries have rolled by and I’ve grown and changed since that day back when I was a single woman, I now have a new perspective. There would be something worse than to be stuck facing imminent death in one of the towers or the planes: to be stuck there with your child.

A detail of the tragedy that escaped me back when I was single was that some of the people on those flights had their children with them. Most of the people who perished that day may have had some small bit of comfort knowing that at least their loved ones were safe and sound, far away from this hellish scene. Not so for the people whose children occupied the seats next to them on the doomed flights.

I think about those parents and their children every time the subject of September 11th comes up. The sorrow that grips my heart when I think of what they experienced is beyond description. It also makes me appreciate the simple gift of safety. It’s such a fundamental part of life here in modern America that it’s one of the easiest luxuries to take for granted; but truly, it is a great luxury. For all the difficulties and chaos I might face today, there have been many parents in many times and places who would give anything to simply be as safe as I am. If only for today, I hope that I can let go of all the usual irritations and complaints, and simply bask in the comfort of knowing that at least we’re all safe and sound here in our little house.

I ask Our Lady for her prayers today, as she knows what it’s like to realize that someone is about to murder your innocent child. And for those of you who are inclined, please join me in a prayer for the repose of the souls of the victims of September 11th, especially those whose children sat next to them as the planes went down.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescat in pace. Amen.


  1. Kathryn

    I completely agree, I sat hugging my babies while I watched the horror unfold and could only imagine the parents involved holding their own babies. It still makes me cry, every year on this date!

  2. Teri

    I will pray with you.
    And your post reminds me of how our young family watched a military flyover years ago (after 9/11) with a sense of “safety” and, of course, patriotism. Then it occurred to us that the same planes flying over children in other countries can be dreadful. I agree we enjoy a sense of safety on so many levels we can’t even appreciate fully. Even after 9/11.

  3. Joyful Days

    Amen. Amen.

    May we never forget that gift of safety is a fragile gift.

  4. Christine

    Prayers are being said here. Very well written post.

    I have put myself in that plane seat, also in that building, and I cannot imagine. So sad.

  5. Kelly @ Love Well

    Amen Jennifer. My firstborn was six weeks old on 9-11. I held her and wept for about 24 hours straight. Without God as my anchor, I believe I would still be adrift on an ocean of fear.

  6. Diva Mom Vicki

    Excellent post and a perspective I hadn’t thought of either, as my oldest was born after 9-11-01.

    I have faith in HIS infinite love and mercy that all of those children are in Mary’s arms now.

  7. Barb

    Those thoughts haunted me in those days too….I already had children. Since then, I’ve only flown once with my children and it was all I could think about the whole time we were in the air.
    Prayers going up with yours.

  8. Michelle

    You’re right on. I worked with children at a school back then. I remember sitting in a staff meeting discussing emergency plans that included the neighborhood bomb shelter. I thank God every day for my son and his safety. My prayers are with all the families who lost someone on 9/11.

  9. Shelly

    my mouth dropped as the Gospel was read this morning: “love thy enemies” – uhhh, wow!

  10. Ouiz

    The day it happened, I was on my knees in front of the TV, holding my 3 yr old, my 1 1/2 yr old (and 8 mths pregnant with my 3rd).

    Since then, I have often found myself thinking about the people on those planes. I have put myself in their shoes and sobbed. I have fought down panic just thinking of their last moments, and how would *I* go into eternity with my children — what would I say to them that could help us all face it together?

    Dear God, may we never, ever have to face something as terrifying as that.. and thank You for the safety we have today.

  11. Courageous Grace

    Oh dear. I read this too late in the day. George is already asleep and I can’t pick him up and hug him or it will take hours to get him back to sleep again.

    Thank you for sharing a perspective I didn’t think about.

  12. Flexo

    At Mass this evening, Father (a retired Marine) told us of going up to New York afterward for one of the funerals for a fireman and talking to them afterward. One of them told of what happened that day — how, when they were leaving the fire station, they stopped at a board on the wall and left notes, all of them essentially saying, “if I don’t make it back, tell my family I love them.” Then they all hopped on the fire trucks and sped off, uncertain of their fates, but each one willing to charge into the mouth of the lion, willingly risking death and willing to lay down their lives if necessary to save others. And many of them did just that. No greater love is this.

    Thankfully, we have Christ. Thankfully, we have the grace of His Holy Spirit, the grace to come to some measure of forgiveness and love for our enemies, even if it is necessary to still fight them and defeat them in order to protect others. If we did not have this grace, if we fought, not out of love and protection for others, but out of hate and resentment and raw retaliation, that hate would end up destroying us as much as it destroys the enemy. If we fought, not out of a desire to one day have peace, but out of a rageful desire to crush the enemy and each and every one of his family to dust, we would only crush ourselves.

    I am thankful to Jesus that I can forgive them right now and have peace with them tomorrow, if they too want to have peace. If they do not want peace, I can still forgive what they have done in the past, but it will be necessary to fight to prevent future 9-11s from happening. But, thankfully, it will not be out of self-destructive hate.

  13. Radical Catholic Mom

    “And your post reminds me of how our young family watched a military flyover years ago (after 9/11) with a sense of “safety” and, of course, patriotism. Then it occurred to us that the same planes flying over children in other countries can be dreadful.”
    I had the same epiphany one day and stopped going to the military air shows.

    Jen, your overall point is so so true about how safe we are here. I currently work with refugees and, Dear Jesus, we Americans have SO SO SO much to be thankful for. We have no idea what it is like to fear drinking water, to struggle to find food, to fear being ambushed at night, to fear atrocities on a DAILY basis.

  14. Abigail

    “The gift of safety”– I don’t know Moms, I think we might be a little off in our definition of safety here.

    I’ve got 3 kids under age 6. I’m helpless on a normal flight. The thought of staring down terrorist with 3 babies makes me want to throw up. So I’m totally in sync with all the thoughts and feelings in this post and this comment thread.

    All the same, I feel like we’re called to strive to a higher standard. That’s what is causing our discomfort with this subject.

    It’s not that evil will never touch our innocent children. Our safety comes from the belief that God will always give us and our children sufficient grace to met and overcome all evil. God will protect our souls.

    That’s hard to remember when all around 9/11 we saw terrible images of pain and grief. Yet We can’t see the spiritual side yet.

    We wouldn’t know “the rest of the story” until we get to heaven. Maybe there was something incredibly beautiful that happened because tiny children were on that plane. Maybe a two year old started praying the Lord’s prayer and the purity of her voice brought back an entire plane of frightened adult passengers back to Christ.

    I don’t know, of course. None of us do. Only God sees the full story.

    The act of mothering requires a supernatural amount of trust. Evil exists in our world. Sin exists. There are real terrorists and pedophiles and scary chemicals in plastic sippy cups.

    Our true security comes in our friendship with the Lord.

    I’m still heartbroken over 9/11 seven years later. At the same time, I’m so grateful to all those ordinary heroes who make me walk in my ordinary life as a wife and mother with less complacency.

    In Christ,


  15. Cassie

    The story that struck me the most back then was the woman on the way to California with her 3 or 4 year old daughter. They showed their pictures over and over again, that woman and her daughter. I felt physical pain every time I thought of being on a plane with my child. Like you, I just can’t grasp it really. Can’t imagine it and yet can imagine it all too well. I will pray with you!

  16. midlife mommy

    You know, that was one of the things I was meditating on this year. I didn’t realize that there were children on those planes; I don’t know why. I guess I thought that they were all business flights, and then I read about a memorial that listed the victims from youngest to oldest, with the youngest on that particular flight being three. My daughter just turned four a couple of weeks ago. Even with out 9/11 to think about, I am terrified to take her on a plane with me, because I can’t think of anything worse than to know that something bad is happening to your child and to be helpless to do anything about it. Darn it, crying again.

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