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Posted Friday, September 9, 2011, at 7:05 PM

Flipping on the television as she passed through the room, she reached for the phone to call her mother. She had plans for the day and needed to be out of the house within the hour. Walking back through the room, she glanced at the screen as her mother answered her phone call.

"Hey mom, how are you this morning? Good, I've got a busy day and need to get going, but . . . hold on a second . . . mom are you watching the news? Go turn in on. Oh dear God, a plane just flew into one of the towers in New York City. Oh, God help us--we are under attack . . ." with tears flowing down her cheeks she and her mother cried together as they watched smoke and flames erupt from the building and a second plane fly into the second tower and both towers crumble and fall.

Their shared pain and prayers was the only sound crossing the phone lines for the longest time. "Mom, I've got to go check on my baby boy. I just need to hold him and see that he's okay. I'll have my cell phone--will you call the church for me? No, I'll stop there on my way to the school. Oh, mom, pray like you've never prayed before. I love you! Stay home--you're safest there. I'll call again in a bit."

She rushed to her car and drove to the church--briefly telling the staff what had happened as they turned on a radio to follow the news. Her husband joined her as she explained her overwhelming need to be with their son at school. They drove on to the school a few miles from the church and went in through the resource room door.

Signaling the teacher, the three stepped outside the room as they quietly informed her of the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and explained their desire to see their son. The three cried and prayed together briefly, deciding for the teacher to go to the offices to inform the staff as the parents dropped in for a visit with their son. Fortunately he was in the resource room at that time.

They went to where he was working and had him show them his work. An intuitive child, he reached up to his mother and wiped her face . . . "why are you crying mommy?"

"I was feeling sad and needed a hug, so I came to get the best hug in the world," she said as he wrapped her in his little boy arms and climbed onto her lap. For once he didn't squirm when she kissed his head and hands, holding him tight as his father also hugged them both. The family sat wrapped in each other's arms. The mother wiped her tears away and asked him to show her what he was working on. As they worked she told him some horrible things had happened far way on the east coast and many people had died. It had made her very sad and that she knew coming to see him at school would help her feel better. She told him that she or daddy would be there to pick him up after school and they would all go to the church to pray for the people who had died. Then they read a book together before she could force herself to leave his side.

The next several days the husband and wife alternated between home and church. People came and went, stopping in to pray or just sit in the sanctuary as the horrific stories and information became public. Family members were slowly accounted for as phone lines became useable again to reach the east coast. While there were no direct connections to those in the towers or the pentagon, there were families touched through emergency service workers.

The fear was slowly overcome by an overwhelming anger at anyone for attacking and killing so many innocent people. As anger gave way in the country to outrage, it led to war. Why were so many people dying because of the actions of so few? How was killing even more innocent people--who were interspersed among the guilty--accomplishing good? She struggled with these questions.

The war continued. She continued to question the cost of lives of young Americans, financial resources, civilian lives lost, and the growing of lies and hatred. One hated leader was killed . . . and still the war--and it's cost--continued. Years passed by and more and more misunderstanding . . . mistrust continued . . . hatred ran unchecked.

Eventually the financier of the attacks was found and killed. Would the war end now? Could relationships be healed? Could our country put down the weapons of war? Was the damage too deep?

Deep within her heart and soul, she knew those answers could only come through prayer and love. The love of God for all God's children--Christian, Jewish, Muslim, white, black, brown, male, female, adult, child--all those created in the image of God is the example to be followed. The love of God is all encompassing, all inclusive, without discrimination, without bigotry, without prejudice or favoritism--that is the hope.

Oh God, teach us to love one another with the self-sacrificing love you extended when you gave yourself for us because we could not follow simple rules of how to live together in love and honor. Forgive our failings. Open our eyes to see you in each person we encounter in our lives. So be it. Amen.

İRayla Stewart Hogue

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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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