Eleven years ago, I hosted a little dinner party early in September. It was a picture-perfect evening, cool and clear. My garden was lovely with late summer blooms and basil and tomatoes and other vegetables at their peak. I put a long table in the back yard and covered it with my antique crocheted table clothes. I moved the dining room chairs out on the grass, and set the table with china and silver and candlesticks. We had ham and pimento cheese sandwiches. And my friends and I sat in the twilight and laughed and talked and it was wonderful. I don't remember the conversation but I do remember the feeling of love and security and innocence. And then a few days later, it seemed that all that was destroyed in the rubble of falling towers and crashing planes.
When I think about 9/11, that dinner party is my "before." It was a time when we were blissfully naive, unaware of the tragedy that was before us. Even as we sat under the stars, sharing food and fellowship, someone somewhere was planning an elaborate act of destruction.
I've had friends over for supper many times since then. We still laugh and talk and share each other's joys and sorrows. But somehow it is not quite the same. We are not as innocent and trusting as we might have been then. We have seen a side of human nature that is much more evil than we could have imagined that night. But we have also seen a side of human nature that is humbling in its radical love: in people willing to lay down their lives for their friends, and for total strangers; in the tender care of the survivors; in the love and support of those who still live with loss; in the tragedy of the loss of those who could not survive the deaths of those they loved.
Today was another sparkling clear September day. And tonight my garden is lovely, the stars are shining, and I know that love lives in the world, even in the face of terror and evil.