September 11th 1982 was the day Rosemary and I were married. It was a fabulous day; the service was at Rosemary’s home church of West Croydon Baptist. We had 5 clergy involved in the servcie in 1 way or another, all friends. Friends sang too. We walked down the road for photographs in the grounds of the redundant Anglican church – West Croydon Tab being in the middle of one of Croydon’s largest and busiest roundabouts. Our reception was back in the Tab in the Spurgeon’s Hall with its sloping floor. Great day; great memories. Tomorrow we celebrate 29 years together.
On our 19th anniversary we had planned to go out for a meal in the evening – still a rare luxury for us 10 years ago. Rosemary was at work in St mary’s School. I went down walthamstow High Street to buy her a present (Last minute as is often the case). I walked into a favourite clothes shop confident I would find something good. On the TV screens I could not understand why this clothes shop was screening a disaster movie in the middle of the morning. I looked again and the scene was being repeated, a plane flying into a skyscraper. It took a while for it to dawn on me that this was real and not a movie. I just stared and stared struggling to believe that what I was seeing was real. I bought nothing and went back up the hill to home as quickly as I could turning on thre TV to find the same scenes on just about every channel. Slowly the horror and shock of it all was beginning to hit home. How could anyway do this? How audacious. How horrendous. How evil. We cancelled the meal out that evening. It didn’t seem right, and neither of us had any appetite.
Those pictures which must have passed through my eyes and into my brain tens of times on that 1 day. They still burn in me every time I see them. The subsequent collapse of the towers and the dust clouds across New York can never be wiped from the brain. I feel pain every time; although the pain changes -it is much more now for those who have learned to live with their loss; and for the different world in which we live because of 9/11.
Wedding anniversaries have never quite felt the same. Instead of it being ‘our day’ to remember the promises we made to one another that we have stood by it is more ‘our day’ as part of a world shaped by fears and uncertainties; a world still wrestling with how different political philosophies live alongside and with one another; a world in which the major faiths still seek to understand and work with one another rather than bring about conflict. We are able to celebrate our anniversary; giving thanks for all we have shared, not least our 4 fabulous, grown up, children but we can never isolate ourselves from the way 9/11 (a way we would never have dreamed of putting it before that day) has shaped all of our lives since. May this anniversary remind us all to commit to working for true peace and justice for all in our world.