Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'd rather be unemployed...

I remember this day seven years ago. Less than two weeks into freshman year of college, I awoke to someone pounding on my door.

Turn on the TV. Turn on the TV.

Whether from the haze of being woken abruptly or in general disbelief that such an event could occur, Shira, Lindsay and I sat and watched the news accounts of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in DC. It was frightening no doubt and Shira was frantic to get a hold of her family who lived in the Washington, DC, area.

My childhood friend Josh instant messaged from Israel – can you get a hold of Rabbi Stein? A close friend to Josh’s family, Rabbi Stein was not answering his cell phone. Ultimately, Rabbi Stein was safe but simply unable to use his cell phone due to overloaded cell towers in NYC.

I spent hours trying to reach my brother’s best friend who had recently moved to NYC. Luckily he was late to work that day.

Sadly, a friend’s father perished.

Seven years ago was in some way the beginning of the rest of my life. I was a freshman at Indiana University, living in a Mcnutt dorm room – Dejoya 318 - with the little sister of my brother’s best friend. Unlike the matching pink comforters in the dorm rooms to each side of us, Elyse and I covered our beds more practically in navy blue and forest green – hand-me-downs from our big brothers. We had already made friends with the girls down the hall, learned our way around campus and I regularly enjoyed the Starbucks in the center of the quad and feeding my brother with my endless supply of meal points.

September 11th was Elyse’s 19th birthday. Her parents would be driving down from Indianapolis to take us out for dinner in her honor. Or maybe we drove to Indy to meet them, I actually can’t remember anymore and yet I remember this day seven years ago.

Riding the subway to school this morning was a bit unnerving. I woke up to an email from my current roommate about the need for extermination in our apartment; I dropped my pastry on the floor of the subway car where any chance of the five second rule was suspended for fear of death; a man hopped on the train to preach the gospels of Jesus and was yelling so loudly that my IPOD volume could not overpower him.

Seven years ago, the train I take from Brooklyn to Manhattan regularly stopped at the World Trade Center. As we passed through the stop today, I felt for a moment the subway car slow down as though to pay its respects.

I arrived at school in time to join morning services at the height of worship, where we have the opportunity to petition God. Outside of the fixed liturgy, I made one or two lofty requests and a few more practical appeals – please eliminate possible bed bugs, please increase water pressure in the shower.

The past few weeks are in some way the beginning of the rest of my life. Fresh off the boat from Israel, an émigré, if you will, to Brooklyn, I spend my days rushing between home, school, and working at a local synagogue. When not doing homework, I try to spend time making my apartment into a comfortable living space. I have two weeks to write four sermons for the High Holy Days where I will serve a small congregation in North Carolina as their only Rabbi.

Seven years have passed and Josh now lives in the financial district, down the street from the World Trade Center site. Rabbi Stein is one my teachers. Elyse is a news anchor. Her brother lives near me in Brooklyn. My brother lives in St. Louis and my sister lived in the same McNutt dorm and now in my sorority house at IU.


I remember this day seven years ago, thinking about all those who died and how in the days that followed, our country fell into shambles of economic crises, continued social inequalities, foreign relations disasters and war. In some ways, this day seven years ago is what keeps rabbis and future rabbis in business.

I think I’d rather be unemployed.

I invite you to click on this link for a touching audio clip.

May the memories of all who are no longer with us be for a blessing.