America!

11 09 2012
wikipedia images "Bald Eagle"

The Bald Eagle, Symbol of America

We are “American People.”

We come from every ethnic group under the sun.

We speak every language.

We live, love and die under the stars and stripes.

If you hurt one of us, you hurt all of us.

This is the simplistic civic mindset I was born and taught within all of my life.

It has stood me in good standing many years. That simplicity of America: My country to defend, to love and by God to have the freedom to criticize (when needed) is precious to me. That American civic trust was sorely tested the morning of 9/11, eleven years ago.

Twelve of us, American Ministers all; found ourselves marveling over the majestic beauty of Niagara Falls {on the Canadian side} that Monday, September 10th; then devastated to incredible, wide-eyed silence on the morning of September 11th.

We spilled into the hallway of our Toronto hotel, half-dressed, some of us crying (me) and most of us only half-awake; but all of us had our televisions blaring from our open hotel room doors. “Did you see it? What’s happening? This is horrible; O my God…this is horrible!

A quick consensus brought us to hurriedly dressing, meeting in the lobby and cabbing over to the Church that was hosting the ministerial convention in Toronto for better up-to-date news and just to be around more people; fellow Christians.

The convention keynote Minister was a bombastic, baritone, South African man; large with a barrel chest and prominent patrician nose. He came to the microphone solemnly, saying: “America is under attack!” The one-thousand member crowd gasped as one, with our little entourage shivering in the third front row; having been guided there by volunteer s who learned that “we” were the American contingent at the convention {wow-Who knew there were country-related contingencies?} But there we were, hustled down front, looking gosh-slapped and surreal.

He asked the Americans to stand. We did, expecting him to pray over us and for our country. The rest of the conventioneers began to applaud us… as in appreciation for our country’s immediate plight; when suddenly, this leader cautioned them to stop clapping.

He told a story about how he’d wanted to hold his meetings in New York two years earlier and the various liturgical leaders of New York refused in joining him to hold an event. He then said, “America was being punished for its ungodliness.”

Okay, picture this: The twelve of us are standing in a room of over one thousand Christian ministers from around the world and this guy is saying that America is godless and just got what it deserved. That’s pretty much when I snapped out of my incredulous lethargy over the tragedy taking place and my Americanism went into full-throttle-boil.

An older woman with us couldn’t stand any longer and collapsed down into her chair, weeping openly. It was so quiet in the cavernous room; you could hear her sobs that racked with every breath. It was too late for consoling or advising me… I lost it!

No, Lorna, stop crying!” I pleaded with her, grabbing her limp hand. Looking about at the rest of our ‘American contingency’ who’d bowed their heads; tears streaming… “No, that’s not true!” I pointed toward him at the podium with my other hand.

Are we going to listen to this guy? He should be praying for us, praying for America; praying about all those people killed! Are you kidding me?” “Are you really that mad that New York turned you down two years ago for a meeting, that it’s okay that innocent people were killed today—and its’ what our country deserves? Are you out of your mind?”

Shouts, hoots, whistles and applause began in the upper stands and began streaming downward toward us in the third row, front and center as I grabbed Lorna and made our way out of the convention center.

Epilogue: It was Tuesday September 11, 2001. Our tickets to return to the USA were booked for Saturday the 15th. All airlines were closed until that Saturday. It was touch-and-go all week as to whether we would be able to fly out of Canada by then. Meanwhile, meager apologies and explanations of misunderstandings were made by the conventions’ leadership team. The laughter and fun of our little crew was dimmed, but we walked with our heads high and our backs straight; even when we had to rock each other out of tearful moments in private. We limped through that horrible week and flew home. We flew home to America. ###

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