I never thought when I became a journalist I’d ever have to face the heavy emotional challenges the last few weeks have brought me. Today, sitting just a few feet away from the Wetterlings, whom I’d never even been in the same room with before, I felt like, in some small insignificant way, I knew them. I think a lot of people feel like that. But of course, I don’t know the Wetterlings. I don’t know how they choose to grieve. I don’t know what they lie awake at night thinking about. I don’t know how they muster the strength to get up, show up and step up day after day.
As I sheepishly choked back my own tears rather unsuccessfully, I wondered how many tears they have shed. I wondered if they even had any more left in them. And, of course, they did. Witnessing the support of the community today eased my mind just a little to see the way they care for one another.
Before the prayer service, my middle son, 14, interviewed me for a class project. The assignment centered on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Besides the barrage of questions about where I was when I initially heard the news and what I felt that day and the days following, he also asked me what was the most important thing I learned from the events that unfolded 15 years ago. In my haste, I listed off some random thoughts and here is what he captured:
“The most important thing Kristi learned is in times of tragedy to always look for the good. There are always people who rush forward to help without asking questions, without judgment, without fear, but with courage, bravery, and intent to save lives, despite the danger,” he wrote in his essay.
“The lasting effect the attacks had was a diminished sense of security, the need to defend our nation, an awareness of the need to pursue peace and justice in the world and remember all who died. We can create a better world by starting with ourselves and treating people the way we would like to be treated. The horrible attacks, though tragic, can be a reminder to speak out against violence and injustice.”
Did my son hear my words? Was he really listening? Father Nick said at the prayer service that we need to teach our children to be ambassadors of peace. Am I doing this, Lord?
The weight of the day also challenged me to ask myself why it takes a tragedy for us to love each other so well? Who in my world needs my care and attention? Who can I love better? The saying is everywhere, the song has been sung by a million voices, but right here, right now, I acknowledge, Lord, and pray, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
To read the full story on the prayer service, click here.