"There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments, this is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same."
What is in a date? What gives a particular day significance? I can admit that if anyone were to ask me what I was doing on February 11th, 2010, very few things would come to mind. In fact, pick a year. February 11th, 2000, 1994, 1987 ... it doesn't really matter, nothing about those days mean anything to me. Interestingly, it seems that more often than not, our memories rarely gravitate around the specificity of a date but rather they collect themselves as a conglomeration of moments, seasons, or occasions. I'm not sure why this is the case. I guess in many ways I'm thankful we don't remember all the details and all the specifics of every day of our lives. I guess you could say being forgetful is a measure of grace. Perhaps it helps us be more present in our current situations. Whatever the reason, what I am sure of is that those moments of forgetfulness should lead us to an awareness that in those rare occasions that we are able to recall the specificity of a particular moment in time, well then that means something significant has taken place.
The measure of this significance can vary across the spectrum. For example, the events of September 11th, 2001 are forever etched into the deepest parts of my mind. I can retrace, not only my steps and interactions, but my emotions and my feelings throughout that entire day. A majority of us reading this blog immediately understand why. It was one of the darkest moments in our nation's history. Conversely, there are four other dates that I can recall with a similar level of specificity but for completely different reasons (I would post the exact dates here but some things just don't need to be published on the internet). The significance found in these four days lies in the fact that they are the most notable milestones that have brought me the greatest gift in my life ... my family. The first is a day in March of 2002 when Jennifer and I officially tried to give this "dating" thing a chance. It was the moment when all the flirting transitioned into, "hey, I kinda like you." There was a special day in February of '04 when I finally got down on my knee and asked her to be my wife. Later that same year we greeted the month of August with anticipation for the day when we would finally fill the air with our "I do's." Lastly, this past summer we both shared an unforgettable day when our marriage transitioned into a family and we welcomed our new roles as parents. I can recount an inordinate amount of details for each and every one of those days. My point in saying all this is that "significance" can be found across the broad spectrum of joy and despair. We remember the specifics as moments of darkness or moments of light.
So what about this date? What about February 11th, 2011? As the quote at the beginning of this post suggests, today marks one of those rare moments where we all received an open invitation to watch history being made right before our very eyes. Hearing those words offered from the President of the United States gives them a little added weight. The events that have taken place in Egypt the past 18 days has been nothing short of amazing. I first heard the news of the protests of Egypt as I came off the mountains of Costa Rica after a week of camping in the rain forest. The friends who had accompanied me all welcomed the news with a sense of anxiety and a certain degree of fear. It was primarily a fear of the unknown but one that was indicative of our awareness that whatever transpired in the upcoming days would have a global impact. So for 18 days we watched. We were wondering which direction this most ancient civilization would go. After being led under the authority of President Hosni Mubarak for more than 30 years, something tipped the scales towards the animosity of the people who had felt subjected to some form of oppression for far too long. What was the catalyst? What caused this shift? Interestingly, it was the unlikely and unanticipated courage of the people of Tunisia. Earlier in the year, the protests in Tunisia rapidly overturned the current regime and became the pebble that was thrown in the pond of freedom that has subsequently created a ripple effect throughout the Arab world.
It is not doubt, Egypt considers themselves the heart of the Arab world and the courage of the Tunisians emboldened them to take action. So for almost three weeks we witnessed thousands ... then tens of thousands ... then hundreds of thousands ... and finally millions of Egyptians take to the streets demanding that their voices be heard. The world watched in eager anticipation as the activists teetered on the edge of violence as they were met with the opposition of the police force and Mubarak supporters. In fact, while many were injured and several killed, it seemed the entire country was on the verge of erupting in bloodshed. But as the days unfolded, something profound and inspiring occurred ... peace prevailed. The protests continued and grew in passion and numbers ... but the violence began to subside. The presence of the protesters alone was all the power they needed. The way they vigilantly clung to their compelling hope for freedom became their most effective weapon. It was as if they could taste the liberty they were so desperately craving, and nothing would satisfy but the full course.
So on February 11th, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak announced to his fellow countrymen that he was stepping down from the office of the presidency ... for the first time in 30 years. People were heard on the street saying that for the first time in the 35 years they've been alive, they will finally be able to vote and know it actually means something. "Jubilee" erupted throughout the streets and in the hearts of the people. Watching half-way across the world it was difficult to not be captivated by what we were seeing. The powerful display of peaceful protests that had not only changed a nation but became a portrait for all the world to gaze upon, without question, carried one undeniable quality ... significance.
But no one is denying that February 11th marks the beginning. There is still a journey that lies ahead and it remains somewhat uncertain. So while I anticipate being able to recall February 11th to mind for years to come, I believe the reason why I will be able to do so remains to be seen. For this significance needs to be further defined. As I mentioned earlier, there is a broad spectrum between darkness and light that can help define those moments we consider significant. And with so much remaining to unfold in one of the world's most ancient civilizations, the question that remains in our minds is if this day will usher in a greater joy for the world to behold or take us closer to the edge of anxiety and despair. Have these events ushered the setting of the sun that makes way for a darkness to sweep over the land or have these voices of hope arisen as a response to a glimmer of light, peering over the horizon? The world waits and watches.
Personally, I know my prayers are anchored in my expectations that this is the dawn of a new day that will lead us into a greater hope. But there is no doubt such an expectation is far from being guaranteed. In any event, the one thing that should not be disputed is that February 11, 2011 will forever be marked in significance. And that makes it a day worth remembering.