9/11 and the Gopher Dance
Like everybody else, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, my eyes were riveted on the TV images of the Twin Towers going down.
I cried at the human bodies falling, imagining the terror that had to have been filling their hearts as they fell. I pitied the panicked people running through the ashes and smoke on New York City streets, so different from the placid, sunny morning in suburban Omaha.
My fear deepened when I saw the Pentagon, our citadel, smashed open with gaping wounds from another terrorist plane.
Vomit rose in my throat as yet another plane crashed in Pennsylvania, taking still more innocent lives.
Was this World War III? The end of the world? Could we get our eldest daughter home from college 1,200 miles away, for at least a group hug, as our country went down in flames?
Should I pick up our other two children at school and run to the grocery store to stock up on water and canned foods, with a quick stop at a Concealed Carry class?!
I clutched our 1-year-old, carrying her to a chair for a long hug, more for me than for her.
Would she get a chance to grow up?
What kind of a world would she have?
Would she ever again be happy and carefree?
The toddler climbed down from my lap and thundered over to get a “bock.” She thundered back with her “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” book, handing it to me expectantly.
OK. I’ll read this “bock,” I thought. Maybe it would get my mind off this crisis for a few minutes.
My eyes kept wandering back to the TV screen to read the update scrolls. But gradually, with my daughter in my arms and the funny book in front of us, I felt better.
I mused: the pink spots that the Cat had to clean up were just like terrorism and hatred that had seized so many people in our world.
These pockets of evil are nothing new in world history. You just have to deal with them as diligently and patiently as you can. Keep at it, hang in there, and keep working. Eventually, you’ll return to peaceful living, at least for a while.
But then the scary images came back on TV, and I started obsessing again.
What’s going to become of our country?
Will there be a dirty nuke?
Are guys in cammo going to come crashing through that picture window, hurt my daughter and me, and take all our stuff?
The baby jumped off my lap again. She went over to her toy basket, bringing back her dancing gopher, a fat, fuzzy “Caddyshack” toy. It sings and does the twist.
“Butt! Butt!” Maddy demanded. (That means “push the button” on the toy. I assure you, she didn’t get that kind of talk from MY side of the family!)
I pushed it. The gopher started to swing his arms and hips in the cute “Caddyshack” dance from the movie. My daughter staggered around in a gleeful circle, “dancing.”
What a scene: the darling little girl twirling around joyously in the foreground . . . and the awful TV images of doom and destruction in the background.
Suddenly, I focused on the words that the little gopher was singing:
I’m all right!
Nobody worry ’bout me.
No need to get so excited!
Why can’t you just let it be?
I stared at the dancing gopher: “Just let it be.” Hunhhhh.
Just then, the phone rang. I ran into the kitchen. It was my best friend, touching base with me. We wailed together about the terrorism. We expressed our helplessness, our fears for our children’s futures. We told each other we loved each other, and to wear a helmet. We hung up.
I spotted my Bible on the kitchen counter, left there from the night before. Some wisdom there?
The book flipped opened to Isaiah 40. My eyes instantly were drawn to verse 11 at the top of the page:
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
“Those who are with young”–that would be me!
For the umpteenth time that morning, tears dripped down my cheeks . . . this time, good tears.
Even though this was bad, God would take care of His lambs.
That was the last moment I have ever really worried about anything at all.
If there were anything good in the legacy of 9/11, anything at all, for me, Isaiah 40 would have to be it.
Message received, Lord (finally)! You’ve got this. We can trust You. You’ll work things out for our good. We’ll be OK.
I raced back into the family room and joined in the gopher dance with my beautiful daughter…who knew not to worry all along.