It was a particularly fabulous day in seminary. Every day with Rod was great, but he was in rare form that morning, both poignant and hilarious at appropriate times. He was color blind, and that morning he had put on two different shoes. When Trent and I (as always, sitting at the back of the room together writing amusing notes to one another in our notebooks) noticed and asked if he was mismatched, he stood up on the table at the front of the room, so the other 8 students could get a good look. Left for school in a great mood.
I pulled into the parking lot at the same time as Ligas, and walked into the south door with him, making jokes about the crazy Mormon kids and their early morning seminary. Walked down to my locker to throw in my sweater, and as I got to the senior hallway, Sam walked out of Biggs' classroom, bitterly muttering something about "the towers, then the Pentagon". When I asked her what was wrong, she just threw her hands up and in an irritated tone said, "Go in Biggs's room and look at the TV."
He had the TV on FoxNews, and it took me a second to put together what I was looking at, as I watched smoke billow from the twin towers. I listened in disbelief as Shepherd Smith repeated that they didn't know exactly what had happened--planes had hit both towers, but no one knew why. I saw things start flying from the buildings and thought for a moment that chunks of the building were starting to fall. In an instant of horror I realized I was watching people fall. The only choice left to them was how to die and they chose to leap rather than perish in the burning building. I decided I needed to take a moment away from the television and got up to leave the room just as the first tower collapsed. I couldn't move. Live, before my eyes, I watched that vast building, steel and concrete, came tumbling to the ground.
The bell rang not too much later, and I headed off to calculus in Ms. Mikk's class. She turned the volume on the TV all the way down, but left it on so we could follow what was happening. She tried to start going over the previous evening's homework with us--it seemed odd to me at the time, that such a practical and compassionate woman would think we would actually be able to accomplish anything on such a day. I realize now that trying to continue on as if there were any sense of normalcy in the world at the moment was her best coping mechanism--her husband was working for our state representative at the time and he was in Washington DC that morning. Stephen and I sat at the back table transfixed by the images on the TV. Some time into our class (I can't say exactly how long), we both gasped audibly as the second tower collapsed. That was it. Ms. Mikk knew at that moment there was no point in even trying. There would be no sense of routine or normalcy on that day. She turned the volume back up and we all sat and watched, trying together to make some sense of what was happening.
I remember fondly those first few months after that tragedy. Red Cross was so overwhelmed with blood donations, they actually had to turn people away. Our senior class organized multiple fundraisers for the victims' families. Nearly every single business in Missoula, Ronan, and Polson was plastered with American flags and everywhere you looked, signs read "God Bless America". Our Congressmen, who nearly everyone on both sides of the aisle love to hate, burst into spontaneous singing of that very anthem on the hallowed steps of our Capital.
How quickly we forgot. We are more divided (and angrily so) than perhaps any time in the last several decades. We continue to indulge and even glorify behaviors and attitudes that are at best counterproductive and at worst evil. How often does the Book of Mormon admonish us, "O remember, remember"?
The prophets had to say that over and over and over again because human memory is short. We see now before us a good example of why it is more effective when we choose to humble ourselves than when the Lord has to humble us. My father has theorized that our society will crumble and some sort of Balkanization will occur to America, unless some large event occurs that breeds unity. I reminded him that unity brought on by outside forces is always short lived. For that type of unity comes of a visceral reaction--fear of violence, fear of famine, etc. When the fear is gone, the unity goes with it. Real unity requires that man has a true change of heart. The pride cycle plays itself out in individual hearts and in whole societies. When we turn from the Lord and harden our hearts, he allows our enemies to overcome us. It has ever been thus. He allowed a wake up call. Did we heed it? O remember, remember and perish not! The pride cycle in our society is pretty far advanced. We may well have our civilization destroyed in our life time. But we need not fear, so long as we are faithful. For we know that this time, when the people are ripe for destruction, it will be more ugly and brutal than at any other point (perhaps because human weaponry is so advanced?), but we also know that this time will be the last. That the Savior stands ready to appear to man again, to build His kingdom more completely, and to usher in, after the violence and destruction, one thousand years of peace. One thousand years of order and harmony and tranquility, where Satan is bound and the work moves forward unimpeded.
Perhaps that time will come after we have withered away and been lowered into the earth. But perhaps not. Perhaps it will come when we are still young and vibrant and in the midst of all our busyness. Are we prepared? Are we dedicated to the right things? What do we set our hearts upon? What are we to remember? Just as we have covenanted, we are always to remember Him. Remember Him and perish not. Because all things outside of Him perish and fade away. He only is constant, unwavering, ever faithful and loving. It is only in Him that we find salvation, whether we leave this earth in the heat of battle or as an old soul warm in bed. He is the only way. May we be more worthy of His love and constant care. May we always remember.