1/23/16

Something terrible has happened in your country

I was in the town of Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina during 9/11.  Our tour guide came up to us and said, "Something terrible has happened in your country!" 
9/11 Twin Towers Cross
9/11 Twin Towers Cross
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
9/12/2011 (4 years ago)
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - I was in the town of Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Some friends and I traveled there with a tour group and arrived on September 7, 2001.  Medjugorje became known world-wide when our Blessed Mother appeared to six young people in 1984, and she continues appearing to them to this day.  I had heard about the apparitions, messages and miracles, and I was intrigued.  I wanted to go.  So many years later, I finally arrived.
On the evening of 9/11, I had just finished dinner and was preparing to go to St. James Church for prayers with our group when our tour guide came up to us and said, "Something terrible has happened in your country!"  When he told us the shocking news, I felt as if the ground fell from beneath my feet.  I rushed back into the house to watch the news, but I could not understand what was being said. The news was in Croatian.  I watched the Twin Towers burning but did not understand the full impact of what had happened, nor did I know the number of innocent lives lost.  The reality set in as we learned more about the tragedy through interpreters.
When we went to church the next day, one of the Franciscan priests gathered the Americans together and asked us if anyone had relatives that lived in New York.  He said the local church would do everything possible to help those with family and friends who may have been involved in the tragedy, and they would make every effort to help contact them. 
As I aimlessly walked through the town, the reality of the attacks was sinking in deeper.  Now, home seemed so far away.  I felt isolated and confused.  Something terrible just happened in the U.S., and it was as if that unseen protective wall around our nation came tumbling down.  How could this have happened?  Who was responsible?  Are we under attack?  Will we be able to get home?  And the thought of flying was not appealing--where was the nearest boat?
I called my husband from the local post office. They had the only public phones for international calls. He was concerned for my safety and how I would get back home.  He said that friends and co-workers had called to see if I was okay, and he also said they were praying for all of us and for our safe return.  Their prayers were comforting to me.
That evening, I was back inside St. James Church standing next to my friends, and remembering the prayers from back home, I whispered to one of them, "We are going home on the wings of prayer."  She  nodded, and just then a feather floated down in front of us.  We stood motionless watching it as it landed on the church floor.  Her mother picked it up and still has it to this day.  For some reason, that falling feather was a reminder:  we are not alone, Jesus and Mary are with us.  We would get home on the "wings of prayer."
We heard that all flights had been cancelled, even in Germany where I needed to catch a connecting flight to New York.  In a couple of days, I was supposed to travel back to the U.S.--would it even be possible?
When that day did arrive, we were told the airports opened up.  We gathered our belongings and stepped onto the bus to travel to the airport in the ancient city of Dubrovnik to catch our flight to Germany.  When I had left Medjugorje to travel to Dubrovnik, I felt a little sad, not only because of the tragedy that just occurred, but also my own personal pilgrimage was now over.  Did I grow at all in my faith?  What did I gain to take back with me? 

I had heard that so many people who traveled there had their rosaries turn gold, witnessed the miracle of the sun, and other miracles, but those things did not happen to me.  In spite of our tour guide repeatedly telling us those miracles were not the reason for our visit, that the pilgrimage was a time to grow in our faith and to come closer to Jesus and Mary, I was still disappointed.  The drive was a long one to Dubrovnik, and when we arrived, we waited for over an hour, only to find out that we could not fly into Germany after all!  We had to return to Medjugorje. 
As we traveled back to Medjugorje from Dubrovnik, it dawned on me that maybe Our Lady sensed my emptiness.  Somehow, I felt like she said, Come back, let's get this right.  My faith journey would be ongoing, and there were still some things I needed to understand.
After our return to Medjugorje, that evening we joined the Friday night prayer group.  They meet on the top of a large, rocky hill.  We carefully walked up the steep, dark hillside using our small flashlights to light the way. There must have been hundreds of people there that night. When we finally got to the top and found a spot to sit, the prayer group started singing, and we all joined in.  Our Lady was to appear to Ivan, one of the visionaries.  I noticed a dog wandering among the crowd that I had seen earlier in the town.  He must have followed someone up the hill. 

After the singing, we all started praying the rosary, and then the praying stopped.  It was at this time, Our Lady appeared to Ivan.  Just then, the dog started barking; a woman yelled out, "Jesus, save me;" and a baby in the crowd started whaling inconsolably.  The whaling went on and on; piercing me to the depth of my heart.  I do not think there was a person on the hill that night who was not begging Our Lady to console that baby.  As I begged her myself, I felt like she said, I hear that every day. 
Ivan said that our Lady was the saddest he had ever seen her.  She felt the loss of so many lives in America and felt it deeply.  She witnessed it all.  Ivan told us that she was holding her hand over her heart, and she said, "Peace, peace, peace."  She wanted us to come to her and share our feelings.  She knew how we were affected by the American tragedy and that we all shared in the suffering of those families who lost loved ones. 
When I finally left Medjugorje, I thought about the horrific tragedy in my country and my journey of faith.  I knew that I would carry these experiences with me for the rest of my life.  The crying of that baby reminds me of what Jesus and Mary witness every day.  The feather, too, is a gentle reminder that Jesus and Mary are always with me.  I also feel called to pray more fervently for the protection and dignity of all human beings, as well as pray for the conversion of sinners. 
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Dorothy Terheyden is a wife and mother.  She is a board member of Tennessee Right to Life, and active in St. John Neumann parish.

1 comment:

Ed Sousa, Sr. said...

In the shadow of Your wings I take refuge, till harm pass by."-Ps 57:2