Early Sunday morning, I met my daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons on the plaza between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
We were there for the opening of the exhibit 9/11 Tribute on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of that unforgettable day. The Museum of Science and History was chosen to receive the largest artifact in Texas from the World Trade Center -- a full facade panel that once supported the three floors (101 -103) of the North Tower, located two stories above the center of the impact zone.
Prior to the opening of the exhibit, the community gathered to honor those who perished that day as well as those who lived on, carrying that unfathomable loss forward in time with them for the rest of their lives. We remembered men, women and children who died that day simply because they boarded a plane or went to work. We remembered the first responders who ran toward the peril as others were fleeing it.
As we waited for the program to begin, we talked with my grandsons, ages 9 and 7. The oldest had been in his mother's womb on September 11, 2001.
She and I told them how she had called me and Gayland, awakening us in a hotel in Las Vegas where Gayland was attending a conference.
As soon as she heard my voice, she burst into tears. I couldn't understand what she was saying and was terrified that something had happened to the baby or to Michael, her husband. I could not imagine what else could have so devastated her.
She finally was able to gasp out, "They've attacked the World Trade Center. Turn on the TV right now."
I told that to Gayland, and he got up and did so while I asked her, "Are you OK? Is Mike OK?""
"Yes, yes," she said, "Turn on the TV. Call me later."
So I hung up and we watched in horror as the second tower collapsed. It was as if our brains could not process what we were seeing. We reached for each other's hands and just held on to one another as we listened to the news that is so sadly familiar to us all now. We rented a car that day and started for home. I could not rest until I was holding my child in my arms.
As we told the boys this story, we had our arms around them. All over the plaza parents and grandparents were holding onto children and grandchildren, the already precious made even more so by the date's reminder of how fragile life is.
Then we watched the Fort Worth Police's Mounted Patrol Unit arrive and line up. The boys love those horses and always make a point to greet them when we encounter them. To see all of them lined up was a special treat.
After the formal program was over, the large crowd began making its way into the building to see the beam, which is displayed in the museum's atrium until the outdoor memorial is completed. As the line moved slowly and steadily toward the entrance, we walked past the statue of Sacajawea, her face turned to the rising sun, her baby on her back. Gavin thinks her name sounds funny, but he assured me he knows who she is -- "She showed the men the way west."
Just inside the door was the model of what the completed exhibit will look like.
Inside the atrium, the words "Bent, but not broken" are painted on the wall above the beam.
I talked with Van Roman, president of the museum, and he said the reason they displayed it horizontally instead of vertically is that people want to get close to it, touch it, always with reverence. He and his staff, and apparently most of the members of the public viewing it are very much aware that microscopic human remains might still reside on the beam.
Watching people encounter it on Sunday made it clear that this twisted beam has become a sacred relic, transformed by fire and the death of innocents into a holy thing.
Pray for peace.