Grace is the butterfly that lands on your nose



On September 11th, eleven years ago, I know exactly where I was at 9 a.m. Actually, it was 6 a.m. because I was living outside of San Francisco at the time.  I was supposed to be in Boston. At the last minute, my boss told me I really didn’t need to be there, so I changed my plans. I had been in L.A. the day before. I did this all of the time, as did my colleagues. Getting on a plane was like riding the bus.

My husband was taking my son to school, and I was drinking coffee while watching the news. With my trip cancelled, I had an open calendar, which up until that time was only something I fantasized about. I was debating taking an impromptu day off, or maybe cleaning some long overdue projects off my desk. Until the news captured my attention.

One of the Twin Towers was on fire. They weren’t sure what was going on. I called my husband to make sure his parents were still in upstate New York instead of the city.  While we were talking, the second plane hit. Soon after, we heard about the Pentagon. All flights were suspended. I checked on my boss and my staff. I called the teams I had in the field. Everyone was safe.

But I don’t think any of us were the same again.

I didn’t want to get my son from school. I figured he was safe and sheltered from the news coverage and the sense of fear that permeated the atmosphere. Not knowing where else to go, and not wanting to stay home and watch any more, I went to church.

I’m not a religious person. I have broad spiritual beliefs which aren’t easily captured by any one denomination. It’s a mishmash of Eastern and Western practices I refer to as Episcabuditarianism. Raised as a Catholic, I’ve developed a distrust of religious organizations, despite being involved with them from time to time, driven by a need for ritual and community.

But going to a place of worship felt right. I lit a candle, and prayed for a while, and ran into the minister on the way out. We sat on the steps. We were both emotionally raw. I felt lost. He felt angry.

I still don’t know how to define the nature or essence of God. I can’t put it in a book, or a box, but if I had to, it would be two people sitting on a concrete step, admitting they don’t understand how the world works, and finding peace in each other’s company. So, like happiness and some variant of Law and Order, Grace is always with us. We just have to find the right channel.

So on this anniversary of 9/11 (or the day after) I hope you find it in your own world.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by David Yu © 2010 Creative Commons