SHAREN FORD ON: THE POWER OF WORDS
This past weekend, on Saturday, September 11th, I attended a spectacularly beautiful wedding in Lake Tahoe, California. The groom’s mother and I have been best friends for more than thirty years. The ceremony took place with the aquamarine waters of the lake as a backdrop. Nicknamed the “Jewel of the Sierras”, the lake reflected a cloudless sky reminiscent of the one New Yorkers had seen on the same date nine years ago.
The significance of this anniversary had clearly influenced the bride’s vision for her wedding. A bouquet of red roses glowed against her white gown and her attendants wore blue. She had asked the active and retired members of the services amongst the guests to wear their uniforms and they did so with a pride shared by everyone present.
The couple had faced a dilemma regarding their chosen wedding date: how to reconcile its sad associations with their own joy. They chose to do it with words.
They understood that the power of words is phenomenal. Words have the ability to wound, but can also heal. They can confuse an issue or clarify it. Words bring people together and tear them apart. Faced with the reality that the lingering shadow of tragedy would inevitably hover over their special day, the bride and groom hoped words would help to reconcile our national sorrow with their happiness. I was honored when they asked if I could find the words that might accomplish that feat, and then stand between them to say them at the beginning of their wedding ceremony.
They entrusted me with this task for two reasons: one, I am a writer, and two, I would be the only one of their guests who had been an eyewitness to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Touched by their sensitivity, I nonetheless struggled to find words perfect enough to honor both the victims of 9/11 and the about-to-be newlyweds. Eventually, I abandoned my attempts to be poetic and settled for heartfelt. I encouraged everyone present to share in my gratitude for an occasion that would serve to remind us that the scales of life are balanced by both joy and sorrow. And as we remembered those that were lost on this day, I asked them to rejoice in the marriage of two very special people and reclaim September 11th as a reason to smile.