“Oh, my God!”… We each remember where we were that horrible morning eight years ago today. We remember the sick pit in the stomach, the rancid taste of fear in our mouth gaping in disbelief as we stared at our television screens listening for commentators to make sense of the senseless. I remember watching a shot of a group of New Yorkers staring up at the inferno and reading their lips, all of them. In near unison they mouthed, “Oh, my God!”
That’s what we say when there is nothing more or nothing else to say. And “OMG” is a prayer at the primal level! We reach up and out to God. We pray when we’re pushed to the edge. We prayed that morning, all of us. Whether or not we knew it, or even believed in the process; we all prayed. It’s a good day to remember that. Today we remember many things: the terror, the heroic courage of many, the anger, and the prayer of that darkest of days.
In our book “Six Prayers God Always Answers,” Jennifer Schuchmann and I included the following about 9/11 and its aftermath. I offer it here as another way to remember…
It is hardly an exaggeration to call prayer an instinct. Before we think, consider the implications, weigh the probabilities, or balance our philosophic algebra, we pray.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 many New Yorkers found themselves in the throes of two indulgences most would have resisted in less complicated times. Hundreds threw themselves into sexual encounters with total strangers and thousands lost themselves in public displays of prayer Peggy Noonan described the latter this way in her Wall Street Journal column on September 28, 2001.
In the past 17 days, since the big terrible thing, our country has, unconsciously but quite clearly, chosen a new national anthem. It is “God Bless America,” the song everyone sang in the days after the blasts to show they loved their country. It’s what they sang on television, it’s what kids sang in school, it’s what families sang in New York at 7 p.m. the Friday after the atrocity when we all went outside with our candles and stood together in little groups in front of big apartment buildings. A friend of mine told me you could hear it on Park Avenue from uptown to downtown, the soft choruses wafting from block to block.
We prayed it then; may we do so again, fully intentional and again desperate: “God, bless, comfort, heal, encourage, challenge, restore America.”