Elegy for Ellicott

They grew up together in this small Maryland town, those two 19-year-old college coeds. Summer was their favorite season. And what’s not to like about a sultry night high atop the railroad bridge in Ellicott City? Which is where Elizabeth and Rose were dangling their feet this Monday around midnight—their last night before heading back to college. The view beneath the stars above that sleepy neighborhood is why the bridge has been a favorite destination for generations. The young women tweeted their friends. “Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign.” “Looking down on old ec.” Photos attached to their tweets “showed their view from the bridge and their bare feet, one with painted blue toenails, dangling over the edge.” Another tweet, “Levitating.” Minutes later a CSX freight trained loaded to the brim with coal thundered down the tracks toward the bridge. Witnesses later described the squealing of brakes and the roar of a crash, as the train derailed, dumping its payload of coal onto the dark city street beneath the bridge. The two girls’ bodies were later found beneath the coal.  “Friends tweet before dying in Maryland train derailment” read the headline (South Bend Tribune 8-22-12). Is the story a metaphor of life anymore? Beyond the bitter pain and loss of two young friends and two devastated families, that terrible tragedy in Ellicott City remains a tale of how quickly, how in an instant life as we know it can change. Irreparably change. Forever. The ancient writer Paul in Holy Scripture scribbled a prophecy once of how the world—the one you and I live in and call “home”—will end. Read his prediction—even just once—and you, too, will sense how eerily similar to Ellicott City is this prophecy. A week from today we begin a mini-series that will examine this one-line prophetic prediction: “The Dark Night Rises” (that’s with an N, not a K). Because it is dark. The night is rising. And the end is thundering through the midnight toward us. But you don’t have to be found tweeting the night away oblivious to the impending. Join me right here next week—and with eyes wide open, we can face the rising night together. With Him.

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