In my living room is an antique chair that belonged to my great-great-grandmother. The story of how it came to be in her possession has been passed through the generations as each inherited it.
My great-great-grandmother lived on a farm in the mountains of West Virginia. One day a family pulled a wagonload of furniture into the little farm. A man climbed down from the wagon and asked her to look at the pieces of furniture, wondering if she would be interested in buying any of them. The family, he explained, was having difficult times, and had decided to sell all that they owned and return to their homeland, England. Times were tough and buying furniture was an untimely consideration for most folks then. But when my great-great-grandmother looked at the wagon laden with the family’s possessions, she must have felt great empathy for their plight and offered to buy a chair. The man agreed to the price and unloaded it.
When my great-great-grandfather carried the chair to the farmhouse, he muttered that this was no time to be so extravagant, but what was done was done and the chair was placed inside. My great-great grandmother promised to put frugality to the test, and reminded him that they were helping a destitute family.
My grandmother told me this story when I was a little girl, passing it on to me as her mother had to her. Even as a small child I realized that this chair was something she treasured. It has come to rest in my home, and since the events of Sept. 11, I have found myself experiencing connections to my past in ways I haven’t felt before. I have always cherished it, but now find I am looking at this piece of furniture with renewed appreciation.
This chair belonged to my family, whose generations have recovered from the stock market crash, suffered through the Depression, wept on Pearl Harbor Day, and lost family and friends to the hideous acts of war. It is now in the possession of someone who in the past weeks has known fear and questioned over and over, “Can things be put back together again?”
The events of September changed us. We have grieved for strangers we will never know. Without warning, tears have spilled down the cheeks of individuals not usually given to emotion. We have met with the worst side of man’s nature and struggled to stabilize our reeling emotions.
None of us was prepared to handle the unexpected, horrible circumstance that befell us, yet I have become convinced that we will manage. We are seeking answers to questions that none of us ever thought of before.
I stand convinced that we will answer them. Why do I say this? Because generations preceding us faced and met challenges, and so shall we. The question is no longer, “Can we,” but “How can we.” It is one small extra word, but a prophetic one.
Something remarkable has taken place even in the hour of the tragedy. It is as though when the towers fell, the best side of man was reborn.
We know that America has its unidentified enemies, but its heroes have identities. We have begun to cherish a freedom we have for too long taken for granted. The people of this country have embarked on the journey to keep it and to pass it from this generation to the next. That which was designed to conquer us has united us! Amen!