Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Day After


This morning we had oatmeal with blueberries, raspberries and pecan halves for breakfast. The television is on the whole time: we alternative between local news and CNN.

It's weird to know that my city is on CNN. This never happens in Minnesota. We are never in the national news, even though we have a couple of big cities here (Minneapolis/St. Paul). Of course, I exaggerate, but only a little. Back when the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) was deciding where to put their national headquarters, they passed over the Twin Cities, even though a lot of Lutherans live here. They decided on Chicago instead. They said they were looking for a "world class" city. Chicago gets into the national news pretty often. People on the coasts barely know that Minneapols/St. Paul exists. Even though we have the Mississippi River here. Right now, everyone knows that.


Of course, in a way, they are right. We are pretty parochial, in a "small town values in a big city" kind of way. At least, that's the image we've liked to project. Sometimes it's even true. We embraced diversity and equal rights way back in 1948 with Hubert Humphrey leading the charge. Of course, at that time it was pretty safe; there was not a lot of diversity to embrace. And we weren't as "nice" as some of our rhetoric: ask the large Jewish population about the history here, or the large Native American population.

It seemed at first, in some of the interviews, the national news people were going to play on that parochialism. My husband said at one point a reporter was standing in front of the George Washington Bridge, and talking about how there's a $6.00 toll on this bridge, to make sure that repairs continue to be updated, and nothing like this ever happens there. The inference was: here in a world class city, we know how to handle these things.

But Minnesota has always been a good government, "we're in this together" sort of place. The "we" used to look a lot different than it does now, but "we" were all in this together, making sure kids got educated, roads got repairs, libraries were kept up and all of the wonderful parks and lakes were beautiful and available for all to use. We were known for our boring, but mostly clean, politics.

A collapsing bridge can be a sign: a sign of what can happen when we don't pay attention to "us". But there's another sign as well, one that I think has also gotten on the national news: the school bus full of children. If you're from this area, you will understand what I say when I tell you that the bus of children was from the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. I ran a summer program at a church there one year. It's one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

People who thought they were hurt got out of their cars, and ran to the bus to rescue all of the children. It didn't matter where the children were from, or who they belonged to. They belonged to us. On the news, they interviewed a truck driver whose truck broke in half and fell into the river. His first thought was that maybe his back was broken. His second thought was "the bus!" He helped rescue the children. The person interviewing him couldn't believe it.

Back in the early 70's Minnesota was briefly famous. That summer Time's cover article was called "The Good Life in Minnesota". The cover featured our governor, holding up a catch of fish. The good life Time was impressed by was our determination to invest in human infrastructres. I was out vacationing with my family in California and managed to get a copy.

The bridge collapsing can be a sign. But the school bus can be a sign too. We can work together, through both individual efforts and through our government, to rescue all the children in our extended community: urban, rural, suburban. They are all "us."

Maybe we'll never be a "world class" city. But we can be a "first class" city.

17 comments:

mompriest said...

Tragedy happens. It's part of life. Your reflection offers a good way to frame this tragedy. I always believe that God scoops into these tragedies with a desire to restore wholeness. And often God works in and through the people willing to do the work, to keep God alive in the world.

RevDrKate said...

The question of course is asked, "where is God in such a thing?" And yes, exactly as you both say, as sign and sacrament, as reminder that God wants to bring us to wholeness and calls us out of ourselves in ways we do not expect, as the One-with-us in the midst of our pain. So many stories of selflessness with the kids on the bus and others who were trapped. Over and over people risking themselves as Samaritans for others. Powerful witness on this day.

Pastor Eric said...

I was very surprised when I heard Minneapolis referred to as "a major metropolotin area/major U.S. city. My wife and I both took double takes.

I really enjoyed your post because there is a lot about Minneapolis AND Minnesota that the country misses. They poke fun at Minnesotans because of the "Fargo" movie. And our accent stands out. But despite what the rest of the world says, Minnesota is a great place to live. When the floods of 1997 hit, people jumped in to help others they did not know because we were all in this together.

Minneapolis is a "first class" city AND Minnesota is a "first class" state. Thanks again, Diane.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Fr. Jake has a link to a response to the disaster from Bishop James Jelinek, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.

It includes a lovely prayer adapted from the Book of Common Prayer.

LawAndGospel said...

Here in Lancaster County PA, we have never been accused of being a first class city. We a re the place where the movie ""Witness" was filmed. Our county is just now a half million people. We too had our chance to be stunned to be on CNN last year with shootings at an Amish schoolhouse. Amidst the sadness, there were stories of courage, selflessness, and questions about what went wrong. But then there were not only calls to prayer for the family of the shooter as well as the Amish, but relief funds set up for both. God does work to restore our world. You have captured much in your post that frames the tragic events in your community. We will continue to pray for God's hand in your midst.

David said...

Once I was flying back to Charleston and was upset by the high airfares to our city. The person at the desk said it was because Charleston i a forgotten city; no one thinks about it.

Be glad that no one thinks about Minneapolis/St. Paul. If being a world calss city means being in the news, believe me,you don't want it.

I was baptized near the twin cities at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Cressent, MN. so in a way, I feel deep connections with the folks up there.

Barbara B. said...

I LOVE Minneapolis -- it is indeed a "first class" city! (Hubby and I were within a whisker of moving there when we first got out of school.) I'm holding you (and everyone in the Twin Cities) in my prayers.

Jan said...

I've never been to Minneapolis or St. Paul or anywhere around that area, so I'm happy to read about the people there. However, it is sad that it has taken such a tragedy for me to learn about Minnesotans. You described the rescuing of the children on the school bus so much more than I had heard that I am touched by the concern of people for others. Though God did not "cause" (or avert) this catastrophe, he was there in each suffering person and in each person helping. Thank you for giving us a glimpse.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

Seriously folks don't think of the twin cities as a major city in the US? (even the ELCA gurus... oy!)Did they never watch The Mary Tyler Moore show?

Diane said...

major but not "world class"...

Serena said...

Beautiful reflection about beautiful people in a beautiful part of God's creation. Thank you, Diane.

Presbyterian Gal said...

It's a terrible thing that happened here. There was a woman interviewed on the radio here in L.A. who was visiting her son in Minneapolis and was on the bridge. They dropped 65 feet and her telling of the experience was just amazing.

Prayers for those out there still unaccounted for and their families who, while they must know, will be agonizing until they know for sure.

Leah Sophia said...

Excellent post and reflections in the comments...prayers arising from here, of course. I've been to Mpls/St. Paul only once, for a non-church-related convention during summer 1995 and it was enchanting!

Rowan The Dog said...

Sounds pretty world class to me.
Lindy

lj said...

Growing up in the southern mid-west (north Missouri), the Twin Cities were considered wonderful. If you wanted to move out to a "big city" from rural Missouri, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and the Twins were natural ideas. I've yet to visit, but hope to some day.

So sorry to hear about this tragedy. Thanks for the beautiful post.

Counselor in Process said...

Thank you for you remarks. Tragedy is so shocking when it happens close to home. I think a lot of us NYers are still suffering from PTSD and ducking when we hear a low airplane-I am.
You said things so well.
May their lives be for a blessing.

more cows than people said...

way late, but wow. great post.