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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Frnka

Painted Rock - Remembering 9/11

This summer my husband and I drove with our daughters to his first duty station at Fort Irwin, CA. Just a few miles from the entrance to the base sits “Painted Rock.” When we left there in 1999 there were probably 20 or so painted rocks representing the various units that had trained there.

It was a tradition started in the 1960s by Colonel Robert Osbourne, but it did not really catch on until 1981. He started it to provide the units who were training there for Vietnam with a space to paint their insignia.

As we drove closer we could see that “Painted Rock” had clearly grown. In fact, there appeared to be 100s of rocks. A clear indication of the training that had taken place in the 22 years since we had left.

Both of us sat with our mouths gaping as my husband put the van in park. We were mesmerized. We talked just briefly about the display with our daughters. Then stood outside our van in awe. Tears streamed down my face as I watched my husband begin to walk through the rocks, touching them one by one. They meant something to him.

As I began to walk, I considered all of the brave men and women who have passed through the NTC in preparation for something greater. I considered all of the brave men and women who have served our country in general -- the sacrifices they and their families made to protect our great nation. Then I considered 9/11 and all those men and women who went to battle and came home different people. Then I considered all of those brave men, women, and children who unknowingly went to battle that day and perished in the destruction. Then I considered the countless lives that were changed on that day and the families who continue to bravely live each day without their loved one.

But then, I considered how one brave man gave space to a group of soldiers to hold as their own. I don’t think he knew then the impact it would carry nearly 60 years later in the lives of the men and women who went through the gates at NTC. And, I don’t think he realized then the legacy it would carry.

And, as I write I am reminded that we are all not in the same boat, but most of us are in the same river. Some of us on the shore resting, while others of us are getting ready to put our boat in the water, still others of us are quietly sitting in the water with our oars pulled up and a fishing pole in the water, while others are just trying to figure out how to steer the thing. There are still others who seem to be navigating the waters well, but others who are paddling in circles, and still others who are paddling fast and furiously, but seem to not be moving.

And, I wonder about the small gestures that we make to people - slowing down our car to make space for another to move into our lane when we are in traffic, slowing down our rate in steps to make space for a person with a walker to walk ahead of us, stepping back and offering space to a person with anxious children in the grocery line - How might those small gestures of slowing down and creating space impact the lives of others? How might they help us?

Our river, the river of life doesn’t always look like we would like it to. My heart breaks as I consider those boats that are capsized or sunk and whose lives were cut short, especially as a result of someone else’s actions. My heart breaks for those people who cannot see or accept the space and those who speed around in frustration because there is space. We are, after all, not that much different. Each of us wants space. We want a place where we belong and are welcomed.

20 years ago, I stood at the entrance to our apartment building in Germany just soaking in the warmth of the sun. I knew our country had been attacked and I knew I was not able to get through to the base or to my parents by phone. I had no idea what to do, so I did the only thing I knew, I looked down at our 6 week old baby girl and thought for a moment “It might just be you and me kid and I have no idea what we are going to do, but we will have to do something” and then I looked up and asked God to cover us, to cover our little girl. Later that night my husband would return home. He would fly out to Africa a few weeks later, but he returned from that trip too almost as quickly as he left. In the grand scheme our lives experienced very little change, but there were countless lives across the globe who were changed forever that day and in the days ahead. Countless lives who still feel the pain and frustration associated with the attacks and countless lives who still grieve.

So, my prayer today on this day, September 11, 2021 - 20 years after the 9/11 attacks on our country - is for space to be able to pray and talk about issues that are hard to discuss sometimes. For space for those families who are missing members from their boats to have the time and space that they need to grieve. I pray for space for those who are still working to recover from the trauma as a result of this day. And, I pray that all will find space in their lives and come to know the peace, joy, and love God has for us.

Ya’ll have a beautiful day!

All My Love,


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