September 11, 2001 is a day that will long be remembered in history as a somber day of remembrance. On that day, a short decade ago, many innocent men, women, and children became fallen victims due to the vicious attacks that penetrated our shores. They were husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, sons and daughters. All of whom were gone too soon as their lives were snubbed out like a candle in the wind, but none of whom would soon be forgotten.
Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on that tragic day? Do you remember your reaction as you listened to and watched the various news broadcasts?
It started out as a day like any other. People were rushing here and there to get to work and to their appointed destinations. No one would have ever imagined the horrendous chain of events that would occur starting at 8:46:30 AM in New York City when American Flight 11 crashed at a speed of roughly 466 mph (790 km/h) into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99. No doubt the reaction of those who witnessed that event was one of utter shock and amazement. How was it possible that an aircraft would be flying at that low of an altitude and mange to veer that far off course and crash into a building? Or, was this some sort of deliberate act, and if so, why?
Before a definitive answer could be ascertained to the questions that were going through the minds of observers, in a matter of minutes, at approximately 9:03:02 AM Flight 175 crashed at a speed of roughly 590 mph (950 km/h) into the south face of the South Tower (2 WTC) of the World Trade Center, banked between floors 77 and 85. Now it had become immediately evident that this was neither coincidence nor accident. As unbelievable and as unfathomable as it may have seemed, America, “the home of the free and the land of the brave”, was under attack.
Six months prior to these events occurring, on 31 March 2001, I had retired from 20 years of active duty service in the United States Navy. In the course of my duties I had been afforded opportunities to both visit and serve in countries and lands where these sorts of events could certainly be eminent. However, I would have never imagined that anything of this magnitude would ever occur on American soil and certainly not so close to home.
At that time I was working as an Administrative Assistant for a government contractor on the United States Naval Academy, and on that particular September morning I was sitting in my office when I received communication via two-way radio from one of our field technicians that the World Trade Center had been hit. I was somewhat in disbelief and actually asked the technician to repeat. I turned on the shop radio to the local news station and listened intently to the incoming reports. Shortly thereafter, the news was broadcast that the second tower had been hit. The base immediately went into lock down and evacuation procedures of all non-essential personnel were begun. Needless to say adrenalin levels were on high charge as people began scurrying to get to their vehicles and return to their homes.
Upon arriving at home I turned on the news on television and watched in utter horror, amazement, and shock as the news reports were rapidly coming in and video of the events was being played over and over again. Perhaps the overarching question in everyone’s mind on that solemn day was how could this have happened, and why? Somehow deep within me, like perhaps many others who were watching that day, I knew that this course of events would change our world forever.
On that fatal day and in the days that followed, the air was permeated with fear and uncertainty as people began coming together to support and comfort one another as best they could. People of all different faiths and denominations joined together in unified prayer for solace and peace in a situation that was seemingly out of control. The attacks had ended, but not without the cost of the innocent lives of loved ones. Families suddenly found themselves having to make major decisions as to how to pick up the pieces and move forward. The aftershock would linger for some time to come. The events of that September morning had sent a wakeup call to people everywhere that we as a nation are not as invincible as we may think, and that the survival of the nation depends on everyone binding together and working as a whole, and not as individuals operating on a lonely island. Regardless of a person’s beliefs, it was evident that someone of higher power and authority had preserved our nation on that tragic day and sustained those of us who now remain to forever remember. But, what is it exactly that we should remember?
We need to remember the cost of human lives. On that bleak and dreadful September morning, 11 September 2001, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in rural fields in Pennsylvania. The attack was the most devastating ever to happen on American soil; costing more lives than even the attack on Pearl Harbor which claimed the lives of 2,500 Americans. We must not forget the lives that were lost on that dreadful day, and the lives of those who have been forever changed. We must not forget the widows who are raising their children alone, or the parents who will never hold their children again.
We also need to remember the heroism shown by ordinary people who rose to the occasion in extraordinary ways. The reactions to the crisis brought forth both the best and the worse in people. Yes, there have been some unfortunate occurrences such as the Pakistani woman who was purposefully run down while crossing a super-market lot with groceries simply because she wore the traditional dress of her homeland. But unnumbered heroic acts were also called forth, some recorded and many that were not. There were many beacons of light that shined in the darkness. The firefighters, policemen, and rescue workers who risked their lives and especially those who gave their lives to save others were the true heroes of the day.
Perhaps most distressing of all is what this crisis revealed about our country’s relationship with God. Immediately after the attacks, church attendance spiked for several weeks, rising in some places to as much as half again as much as the regular adult attendance. That attendance surge was short-lived however, for levels were back to normal by November.
If the events of that September morning has taught us nothing else, one lesson that we should have all learned is that we never know how much time we have, or how much time those around us have, therefore there arises an urgent need for all Christians everywhere to be the warning voice to their neighbors by spreading the Good News of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone they can. In such times of peril and distress, the question need not be, “What would Jesus do?”, but rather, “What would Jesus have me do?”
The September 2002 issue of “Focus on the Family Magazine” recalls the story of Al Braca. Al worked on the 105th floor of Tower One. When he realized that they were trapped in the building and would be unable to escape, Al shared the Gospel with 50 of his co-workers and led them in prayer. Some of those same individuals had in the past mocked him for his faith. By following the model of Christ – ordinary Christians like you. me, and Al Braca can also be heroes.
And so, we also need to remember from where our help and strength comes. In Psalm 46 we read:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
When David said, “God is our refuge” what he meant was that our sense of security is not derived from our nation’s defenses but that it rests in our faith in God. God and God alone is our refuge in times such as these. Our feelings of security must go beyond the measures of Home Land Security, metal detectors, security checks, military power, political alliances or the strength of our economy. Our hope must be built on nothing less than Jesus’ sacrifice and His righteousness. It is upon Christ, the Solid Rock that we must stand, for all other ground is sinking sand. David further reminds us that God is not only our refuge but He is also our “strength. ” Strength is the ability to rise above tragedy even with tears in our eyes and go forward. God is not just some far off source from whom we can seek advice but He is “a very present help in trouble. ”
God was not surprised by the tragic events that occurred on 11 September 2001. He did not cause those events to happen, but He granted mankind its agency and men brought this all to happen. He does; however, comfort those who were affected by those events. He may or may not prevent future acts of terrorism such as these, but He will provide peace in the hearts of all those who turn to Him.