A Single Candle: 10 Years and We Remember

{by Katie Talalas}

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. ~St. Francis of Assisi

Today is a day full of mixed feelings.

It probably is for all Americans, especially those who lost loved ones in the terrible tragedy 10 years ago. While overseas in 2009 a young man tried to engage a friend and I in conversation about 9/11 and I remember just feeling exhausted by the topic. I didn’t want to debate with him about the same old conspiracy theories. Eight years had gone by but the memories were still so fresh. I felt no indignation, only sadness.

A friend of my mother’s died on one of the flights that had been hijacked. In many ways this tragedy was so senseless, yet certain events lined up in a way that made it impossible for either of us to believe that her death was a hideous, unfortunate coincidence. My mother’s friend Jean and her husband were people who were both uniquely patriotic and deeply Christian. This couple hosted a gathering at their house each May for the National Day of Prayer, greeting guests in clothing emblazoned with the American flag and leading them in prayer for our country. Mom has a terrible fear of flying and at this gathering a few months before 9/11 Jean explained to her how she often prayed with other passengers on flights. My mother just knows that Jean and her husband prayed with the other terrified passengers on 9/11/01, sharing Christ’s love with them in their final moments.

Jean and her husband were not initially supposed to be on the hijacked flight.

They arrived to the airport early that morning, ready to begin their vacation, and the airline told them that they could take an earlier flight. They agreed and that is how they happened to be on the plane that perished 10 years ago.

To those who loved them, it must seem like a strange or even evil thing to suggest that their untimely death was part of God’s plan. It is a bit like the well-meaning comments people made to my mother when we lost my infant brother: “God only does this to very special people, you are special souls” etc. My Mom did not want to be “special”, she wanted to be a mother of three. Jean’s family did not want her to die on that plane, they wanted to be there with Jean through her old age.

Knowing this, I still can’t help but believe that God used her and her husband as an instrument to console the other passengers on that tragic day.

He did have a very special plan for them.

One that brought us pain, yet somehow eased the pain of others. Like the ancient prayer of St. Francis states, they were channels of God’s peace- where there was hatred, they sowed love, and where there was despair, hope.

I am so grateful for the example of the Petersons and the impact they made in my own home and family. Their light was not extinguished on 9/11/01- it was made brighter in the memories of those who loved them, and continues within the hearts of thousands that were blessed by their example.