I had not been to the World Trade Center site in about five years, hadn't taken that big escalator up to ground level, hadn't seen World Trade One or Four or seen the memorial site.
My friend M. and I on Saturday took the PATH train to the World Trade Center. Our final destination was about a fifteen-minute walk away and this was the quickest way there from New Jersey.
During this journey, my heart was full, remembering: how I used to take the double stroller here with our two boys to visit my husband at work up on the 68th floor of Tower One and to have lunch at the Stage Door Deli, how one sunny fall day we lost friends who risked their lives in the buildings so that others could escape, how my husband managed to survive even though he waited and made sure everyone on his floor was accounted for before he headed down the stairwell.
During our walk from the PATH station to the Communion and Liberation offices, I teared up a bit. I know this site so well. My husband worked here for years, before, during and after the September 11 attacks. My good friend understood. The fall air was crisp just like 12 years ago, but the streets around the site are now clogged with curious tourists.
M. shared that had worked in this pocket of Lower Manhattan years ago, just out of college, and remarked how busy it is now; before the attacks it would have been moribund on the weekends. Instead, we encountered tourists from every continent and men every few feet hawking slick brochures about the attacks and the rebuilding of the site.
I thought: if the terrorists' goal was to bring the United States to its knees, and destruction to this corner of commerce in particular, they failed. Epically.
Asking directions a number of times, we found our way to the CL offices, where the new leader of the movement in the United States, Fr. José Medina, met with about 200 of us from the New York area. He is a former high school teacher and the former head of the Cristo Rey High School in Boston so he is accustomed to breaking complex ideas - like ones contained in the 2013 Spiritual Exercises - into simple ones. I appreciated that.
After hearing testimony from about a dozen people about how they are or are not encountering Christ in their daily lives, Father José made some salient points: we all long for something to break into our everyday lives. We long for Christ, and yet, when acknowledge His presence, when we can sense it thorough our encounters with others, we can feel overwhelmed. Often, reality does not match our preconceived notions.
And yet, our very existence is an act of love. We were created to be in relationship with an Other, the One who first called us. We need to live with hearts wide open to the world in front of us. This is not always easy.
I thought of that as M. and I walked back to the PATH station, that place where for me the past is palpable. This time my friend and I knew the way we needed to go. I thought about how hard and necessary it is to live with a heart wide open to the world -- as we headed down the big escalator, traveled under the Hudson River and back to our lives.