It was late June of 2001 that I was appointed as an elder at the amazingly seasoned age of 26. A true lifelong goal had been achieved. I HAD to be appointed an elder before 30. Already, peers were starting to be appointed. I had to make it. How was I going to make it to my goal of being a CO (which my ex finally switched over to missionary) if I wasn't an elder in my mid 20's? So many hot shot elders were. How could they pass me up.
Be careful what you wish for....
Well, I have to say that the first two months were the best. July and August of 2011. The congregation was doing great, and me along with another young elder from MTS were getting some credit. I was the School Overseer and got to be up in front of everyone every week. I even got to be on my first judicial committee that August, and we got to disfellowship someone! Oh what fun!
See, being an elder at that age can only ruin a man. While I was starting to accumulate a lot of life experience in a short amount of time, I was still run by ego. I did want to help people, that's true. But I was also looking forward to the credit I would get. (and was getting).
That Tuesday on 9/11, I woke up and got ready for service with the ex, just like I normally did. Tuesday was not my usual day to take the lead in FS, but the elder who did for 20 years was deleted as an elder the same day I was appointed. Needless to say, he was a bit grumpy. I didn't care. I secretly relished the fact that I got to take over his field service group that day, esp since he was there every Tuesday, listening to me.
Of course, I was a pioneer in my 20's which meant I was only on time for meetings for FS when I was assigned to take the group out. So being newly appointed, I made sure I was early. It was a 10 minute drive to the KH, and when the ex and I left, I turned it on to sports talk radio. As we pulled up to the KH, the sportscast was going to the top of the 9:00 hour, when the radio host said "We are getting reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center." Wow! Must have been an accident. Back inside the KH I went to conduct the meeting....
After the car groups were made, we got a call from our MTS elder that the WTC had been hit twice. I didn't understand, but we went to his house to take a bathroom break and to see what happened....
I can hardly describe the feeling. The weather where we were in Michigan was identical. A clear cool day. Manhattan looked like an absolute disaster. By the time we got to the elders house, the buildings hadn't fallen. As soon as we left, we learned that they did fall. We decided to go to the territory anyway, listening to the radio news.
I woke up in a good, brain dead mood that day, which is the perfect speed for an elder. Another mindless day of driving around rural territory, knocking on doors, counting time... Great life.
It was then that a sister said that she hoped not too many people died. I instinctively, almost callously said "That's what Armageddon will look like."
I will never forget how I felt when I said that. Something clicked. It was my heart. My real heart, my feelings, that part of my brain that I turned off for my disfellowshipped brother's suicide. Finally, my heart woke up. It was telling me something. I know now what it was telling me.
"You don't believe this."
It's easy for me now 10 years later to see what happened to me as I look back. Before 9/11, I never allowed myself to critically examine anything about what I said I believed. Even in the face of losing my family, I was way too invested in the social aspect of being a young hot shot elder and minsterial servant. I was a pioneer with big goals and aspirations and couldn't be bothered to really see if i believed it. I had a goal, a purpose in life.
I also realize I was used by JW's. They took a young man with high ambition and molded me in their own fashion.
But now, on 9/11, I just couldn't ignore what was going on. Or what I said.
This is what Armageddon will look like.
Do I really believe this?
In all honesty, some in our car group, my ex included, made "witty" comments looking forward to the destruction of everyone. It's standard fare, you joke and kid. Today though, we meant it. There it was, a video of Armageddon.
After FS, I had to go to put my talents toward cleaning offices and banks. At each location, I turned on and watched the news. I watched the replays for days after. There it was, the two buildings of the WTC, being hit in spectacular fashion by terrorists who hijacked jets. Falling and killing thousands. Over and over again I watched. I let it affect me.
For months after that, I suppressed the question of "Did I really believe what I taught?" It was always there. How could I leave though? I had committed my entire young life to JW's? Hell, I ignored my drug addicted brother in his time of need! Shit! I can't be wrong! I can't deal with this now....
In the months after 9/11, I was introduced as an elder to pedophiles all over the damn place, mentally ill publishers who tried to murder their family and kill themselves, politics among congregation and circuit elders. In short, the honeymoon was over.
My focus changed forever after 9/11. No longer could I ignore the fact that lives were truly being affected by the teachings of JW's. What part was I playing as an elder?
I lost that super zeal I had, and replaced it with patience and a more accepting attitude. Interestingly, this was interpreted by the elders in my congregation and circuit as a quick maturing on my part, so I actually got more "privileges" then I would have otherwise had I not been so affected by the events of 9/11.
What happened on 9/11/01 was horrific. At the time, I was a young starry eyed hot shot cult member, who aspired to be a leader in that cult. I was forced to look around and be honest with myself for the first time ever. It would take another 5 years after when I was at Gilead before that final (and at the time, awful) epiphany happened, and I realized I was around a bunch of manipulative crap. I was trapped in a lie. Thankfully, I got out. It started for me on 9/11........
I can't change the past, where I came from and what I did, only my future, only tomorrow really. Life isn't cheap, although some people view it that way. But life is short.
This weekend, I will do something on the 10th anniversary of the attacks that I never got to do the day it happened; mourn and remember.
Over 3,000 people died that day, with all their friends and families scarred forever. But for the survivors and family members who displayed their humanity, along with their mourning and grief, they unwittingly gave me a gift, and taught me a lesson that I will never forget. It was an opportunity once and for all to be honest, to open my heart, and to join the human race. I thank and remember them for that.