I experienced a surreal, heart-stopping moment as I left the local grocery store earlier this week. I heard the roar as I approached the door with my basket and looked up to catch a glimpse of a jet roaring past so low it seemed to barely miss the cars in the parking lot. As I stepped outside, I joined the knot of worried people gathered and watching the sky as two fighter jets appeared to chase each other around in circles in the kind of maneuvers I've seen before only in movies like Top Gun. As they circled around again and then vanished in the distance, the small crowd asked questions and made comments: Is it the air show? No that is over. Obama is in Austin today. The firefighters just coming into the store don't seem alarmed so it can't be local. It looks like they have missiles! Did you see if they said USA on the side? I held my breath waiting to see what would happen next, and talked with a young neighbor in the group. As nothing more happened, after a few minutes we disbursed. My stomach felt queasy as I searched the news channels on satellite radio for any alarms on the way home. When I arrived home I hurried to turn on the TV, but saw nothing on the 24/7 news and began to breathe a bit easier.
It was only later in the day after posting a comment about the experience on Facebook that I learned the event had been a farewell flyover from the air show. That knowledge would have made the whole experience less scary. I called the young neighbor to tell her, and we both talked about how nice it would have been to know that at the time. Since then I have been thinking about how much we have lost in the decade since the September 11th attacks on this country. Those attacks were of course freshly on everyone's mind with the recent assasination of Osama bin Laden in the news. Living as we do within 30 miles of Ft. Hood, the world's largest US Army base, produces a different sort of mindset. We see and hear the activity as Ft. Hood goes about its business: the boom of artillery that rattles the windows, the planes lumbering overhead, and the slow-moving, camouflaged vehicles that sometimes crowd the highways. The military is part of the air we breath.
I long for the sense of security I had growing up, and I grieve for the young people, like my grandchildren, who will never feel safe in quite the same way I did as a child. But perhaps there is a blessing hidden in the new reality, for we now know in our guts the fear that many in the world live with daily and can therefore be more attentive to their plight. As I am forced to face the fact that life is uncertain and out of our control, I am reminded in a stark way that my only true security lies in God's love. God is all I have on earth or in heaven, and all I need. It is a hard blessing to know that, but a blessing just the same.
Grace and Peace,