My fourth reflection in honor of the 21st anniversary of September 11
There is a scene in the Narnia movie Prince Caspian that always makes me cry. It is when the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are running in the ocean and laughing, delighted to be back in Narnia.
Previous to that moment they had been standing on the platform of a railway station. The station and the coming train disappear in a blur and the four are suddenly on a beautiful beach that they rightly suppose is in Narnia. They run into the surf, exulting in their unexpected presence in the land that they love so much. It seems as if they may just be in Narnia to have a holiday from the horror of World War II England.
Why on earth would that make me cry? Well, it’s not long before they realize that this is not a holiday, and all is not as well as it would seem from this sunny beach.
Looking atop the cliffs they see castle ruins and discover that they are the ruins of Cair Paravel, the seat of the kings and queens of Narnia. The timeframe in which they have entered the land is actually 1300 years after they were Narnia’s rulers. Hundreds of years before their current arrival, Narnia fell to the Telmarines, a hostile and violent people. Now the Penvensies have been summoned to Narnia by the heir to the throne, Prince Caspian, to take up a great burden – to right wrongs and engage alongside him in a life-and-death battle against evil forces that have taken control of the once innocent and joyful kingdom.
You may think this is a stretch, but that scene reminds me of the bright, sunny Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001. Although most of us didn’t realize it, we, America, the West, were already engaged in a life-and-death struggle against evil forces that had taken control. We only became aware of it when the planes hit the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and crashed into the Shanksville, PA field.
That story explains why September 11, 2001 is as present a reality to me today as it was twenty-one years ago. The grief I feel today is as sharp as it was then.
I did not lose any family members amongst the almost 3,000 people killed when the jihadists that we call “the 9/11 terrorists” turned four airliners full of men, women, and children into missiles. But I mourn the loss of each one, their lost potential to grace the world with their own gifts, talents, humor, and affection — their humanity.
I mourn the loss of the innocence, deception or not, that our country possessed prior to 9/11. I mourn the loss of the thousands of our best and brightest young men and women in the armed forces.
Before the events take place that cause Prince Caspian to summon the Penvensie children back to Narnia, he was told by his teacher, “Everything you know is about to change.” But for America on 9/11, as for Caspian and the Penvensies, everything had already changed, we just didn’t know it yet.