You can't watch Sully without thinking about Sept. 11. Not just because Clint Eastwood's film was released the weekend of the 15th anniversary of 9/11/01, and not just because it's a film about a plane crash in New York City (including dream sequences of planes crashing into skyscrapers). Sully brings to mind 9/11 mostly in its somberly humane celebration of people united by survival and heroism in the midst of trauma.
It was 15 years ago this month that I was a college freshman at Wheaton College. I still remember that August: packing up my parents’ car and driving from Kansas City to the Chicago suburbs, shopping at Target for dorm room necessities, attending orientation week activities, meeting people for the first time who would become my best friends. In many ways those days were the turning point in my life, the beginning of my intellectual and spiritual coming of age.
I graduated from Wheaton College 10 years ago this month. This Friday, I’ll be attending commencement ceremonies at Biola University, where I’ve had the pleasure of working for nearly seven years. I’ll be cheering on a dozen or so students who I’ve mentored, taught, employed or befriended; students who will be walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, much as I did when I was their age, a decade ago.
At breakfast in the cafeteria at Wheaton College on that Tuesday morning, someone I knew—I don’t even remember who—mentioned something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. In my mind I envisioned a tiny Cessna accidentally clipping the building. Didn’t think much of it. If this had happened in later years my phone would have been buzzing with texts and tweets telling me of the event’s magnitude. But this was 2001.
Returning to Wheaton this weekend will be a celebration of time gone by, of blessings given, and of the immense joy both before and behind me. And it will also be a time to celebrate the life of my dear grandmother Marilyn McCracken, who died today. She was my last living grandparent, and she also went to Wheaton. This week is a different sort of homecoming for her.
On Saturday, Wheaton College—my alma mater and a sort of flagship of Christian higher education—announced that it had selected its eighth president, Philip Ryken, to replace retiring president Duane Litfin beginning July 1. Dr. Ryken is son of Wheaton professor Leland Ryken, and has been senior pastor at the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia since 2000. He’s a name I was familiar with and yet hadn’t thought about as a potential Wheaton president. But it totally makes sense. I’m extremely pleased with this choice.