Shift

Collage - two photos - jet flying into Twin Towers on 9-11 and a photo of two water bottles

My home state of West Virginia suffered a major environmental blow this month. More than 300,000 citizens went for more than a week without useable water, and now conflicting information and a bad smell keep many of them from trusting the water even today – two weeks after a chemical leak was reported/discovered.

Yesterday I read the blog post of one young woman from Charleston, WV who is agonizing over how to handle this in her day-to-day life. She is soon to give birth and will have to maneuver through the water crisis with a newborn baby.

Her anxious lament awakened memories in me – memories of a different disaster from more than a decade ago.

When I read her words, I was transported to September 11, 2001.

I was holding our two-month old in my arms as I watched a jet plane fly directly into the World Trade Center – live on the Today Show.

I knew in that instant that the world our son would grow up in was going to be vastly different than the one from my childhood.

Basic worldviews shifted that day.

After September 11, 2001, we think twice before getting on a plane or attending large high profile events.

That’s not to say we don’t fly or attend the events, but it is now with a hesitation, a calculation, an assessment of risk.

For West Virginia’s waterless, a basic worldview has shifted.

When they turn on the tap to do the most routine things – brushing their teeth, making coffee, washing their hands, doing dishes or laundry, taking a shower or bathing their children – they now think twice.

Some of them will think twice but use the water anyway.

Some of them will think twice and seek bottled alternatives.

As I read her words, my heart went out to this expectant mother.

I remember how I felt in those days, weeks, and months following September 11th.

I mourned for a different age of innocence that our son would not experience.

I raged inside that people could be so heinous, cold, and calculating – playing fast and loose with human lives.

And then I began to wonder how we could address conditions in the world that led to that day.

In the days and weeks and months to come, there will be discussion about how to address the conditions that led to life-sustaining water for 300,000+ people being poisoned and compromised.

Meanwhile, many will continue to mourn and rage.

And many will continue to reach for bottled water.

I stand with the people who know we have reached the point where shock and outrage must lead to civic action.

That’s a truth we can no longer water down.

Here is a piece I wrote shortly after the events of September 11, 2001:

My son

What will the world be like for my son?

I watch him sleeping or playing peek-a-boo.

He is so innocent, so carefree.

I thank God for him and can’t believe how full my heart is, just looking at him, or holding him while he sleeps.

What would be best for him?

To act out against threats?

To ignore them?

Is there a middle way?

What will the world be like for my son?

The decisions we make now will shape it.

So, the future of safe water in West Virginia (and elsewhere) – for ourselves, our children and grandchildren?

The decisions we make now will shape it.

(Twin Towers Photo Credit)

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