We all have stories about that day. Where we were. What we were doing. Many here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, died on September 11. They commuted to nearby New York City and worked in the Twin Towers.
Even now, 14 years later, my heart splits open at the horror of it. But perhaps in telling our stories, we come to some type of healing.
I, too, have a story to tell. It still has a mystical quality to it and like most things in my life, I have no answers. Some of you have read this before. For those who haven’t, here is my story of September 11.
Dad was driving me to the Newark Airport and we were chatting about my trip to Medjugorje in the region of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I had thought some day I might like to go there, but really hadn’t had any strong desire.
Then, the oddest thing happened. I felt an inner “urging” — one I’ve not had before or since — and an almost palpable invitation with one word: “Come.”
It was gentle, yet persistent. The feeling kept pulling me and wouldn’t go away. So I decided I would travel to this small mountainous village near Croatia where the Blessed Mother has been appearing since 1981 with a message of peace, love and forgiveness.
Many miracles have happened there. Physical, emotional and spiritual healings. And I had my list of those I would pray for and for myself.
I contacted a woman originally from Croatia who organized and ran “Mir” (Peace) pilgrimages. She had some openings for August and September. I chose September.
So, on the late afternoon of September 10, dad and I drove down the NJ Turnpike to the airport. The day was clear and bright, with the stark skyline of New York City in the distance. Dad interrupted our chat and said:
“Now if you get stranded there and can’t get back into the country, don’t worry. You’re going to be OK.”
I looked at my dear father as if he had lost his mind and asked him what he meant. He ignored my question and kept his eyes on the road ahead. In the excitement of my upcoming trip, I let it go.
I joined our group of five waiting in Newark. The remainder of our group was flying in from Boston Logan and meeting us in Frankfurt, Germany. Then, we would all fly on to Split in Croatia and board a bus that would take us along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea and into Medjugorje.
We arrived in Croatia the morning of September 11. As we took in the beauty of the Adriatic, the bus stopped at a hotel so we could use bathrooms. In the lobby, some of our group had gathered at a TV set. Then I heard cries, wails, moans. What was happening? I walked over to see a plane crashing into buildings. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I was watching. Was America under attack? Were we at war?
We got back on the bus, shaken and in tears. We were only a half hour outside of Medjugorje and knew little of what had happened except that thousands had died. Our tour leader, a deeply spiritual woman, said:
“I usually have 60-70 people each month on these tours. When I had only 18 people sign up, I felt ‘something’ was going to happen, but I wasn’t sure what it might be.”
She then asked us all to pray for those who had died. A faint murmur of rosaries, prayers and sobs fell and rose like the winding mountain roads that led us into the village.
Much like Fatima or Lourdes, the town of Medjugorje was filled with pilgrims from all over the world. They descended on us, telling us in many languages that they were praying for us, for our country. At that time, communication to the U.S. was sparse and I was concerned about loved ones I had left behind. And since the president had locked down all air traffic, I wasn’t sure if — or when — I was getting home.
But throughout those eleven days, with an uncertain future before me — before all of us — I remembered dad’s words and told myself I would be OK, no matter what happened. And I came to realize this: I had been “called” there. I had been issued an invitation to pray for the world. And pray I did. With all my heart. Not for the things I had intended or deemed as important — jobs, relationships, income — but for peace. Peace in our world.
Later, I would realize that the three areas where our group had met — Newark, Boston Logan and Frankfurt — were all key spots where the terrorists had plotted evil. And through those airports we walked as a group (not without a few odd looks) carrying aloft a banner before us that proclaimed “Mir” — PEACE. We were indeed, peace pilgrims.
The evening before we were scheduled to return to the U.S., the president lifted the travel ban and we were able to fly home. It was as if a window had closed behind us after we had arrived in Medjugorje, and then opened to allow us to leave.
What do I make of all this? I don’t know. I still have no answers as to why I felt pulled to be there at that time. But I do know this: Our world desperately needs peace now more than ever before. Each day we wake to more mass shootings. More wars. More human and sex trafficking and cruelty to our brothers and sisters and to our planet.
We must find ways to live in peace. We must. We must. We must. This is all the Blessed Mother keeps asking of us in Medjugorje, as any good mother might. To love one another. To live in peace. All of us. All faiths. All religions. All colors and nations. All peoples.
After I returned, I asked dad why he had been prompted to give me his prophetic message on the way to the airport. He always has been extremely intuitive and simply said, “You needed to hear it.”
So what message do we need to hear? And what can we do in our daily lives to create peace? A smile? A listening heart? Refraining from an unkind word? Ultimately, as many spiritual teachers have said, peace begins with each one of us. The choice is always ours. The world is waiting.