On that lovely autumn day with a clear, brilliant blue sky, I was in my classroom teaching Bible to high school students. After my first class, I headed to the church office for my weekly Tuesday morning meeting with the Youth Pastor. The secretary seemed alarmed and mentioned something about the World Trade Center, but I was focused on the upcoming meeting and didn’t really pay much attention. However, the Senior Pastor stood in the doorway of the Youth Pastor’s office. Our Senior Pastor was a big man--tall and broad shouldered and he filled the doorway. He didn’t move, so I stopped and looked up at him. He asked me if I had heard the news. When I shook my head, he told me that the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane. Each of the towers had been hit. My thoughts quickly turned to the Youth Pastor’s father and brother-in-law who both worked in Manhattan. The Senior Pastor, the Youth Pastor, the Church Secretary and I paused to pray for our country and for those in the towers. Then the students were gathered and we went to tell them and walk with them through the horror of that day.
The Senior Pastor stood in front of the auditorium like an unmovable, unshakeable rock and told the students that some days shape our lives and our world and this was one of those days. He not only told them the news, he put it into perspective and he prayed with them.
Throughout that day and in the following days we prayed often with our students and we waited. Being little more than an hour northwest of New York City, many of our kids had parents or other family members that worked in the WTC or were police or firefighters in the City. We prayed and we waited. We waited for news of rescue, news of a loved one coming home. As we talked it seemed that everyone knew someone who had been affected, that everyone had a story of how the Attack on America had directly impacted them. We watched and waited and prayed. One student’s mom escaped the Towers as did the Youth Pastor’s brother-in-law. Their lives were forever changed. The firefighter father of two of our students went into the building, but never came out. Others from our church were at Ground Zero doing rescue and recovery work. We watched, we prayed, we waited, and everyone had a story.
On September 13, 2001 I penned the following:
Everyone has a story . . .
Stories of pain, shock, terror . . .
Everyone has a story . . .
It was a bright, clear Tuesday.
The sun shone brilliant in a cerulean sky
Over the Big Apple
The capitol of the world
New Yorkers bustled along the streets
Walking to work
Riding the subways
Hurrying about their daily tasks.
Overhead, a jet airliner whined
Spectators commented on how low it flew.
Then the horror began.
The North Tower of The World Trade Center was hit . . .
A direct hit, by a 767.
A city stood in shock
People fled the building
Then 18 minutes later the horror grew
A second plane flew straight into the South Tower
A cloud of fire mushroomed up the building
From where the plane had hit.
About an hour later the South Tower collapsed.
To those who watched it looked surreal, like a horror movie
Except it was real . . . oh, too real for all of America
A plane flew into the Pentagon
Both Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed
Thousand buried in rubble
Screams of terror
The dead and the living buried
The brave rescue workers
The innocent business men and women
The airline passengers
The day-care children
The suicide mission hi-jackers
A city . . . a state . . . a nation watched in horror and shock.
The sky filled with debris
Smoke . . . dust . . . papers . . . bits of buildings . . . bits of people
The hospitals filled
The news dribbled out
Thousands around the nation waited
Did those they loved survive?
Today, 2 days later many don’t know
We still grieve
Flags fly at half staff
Police patrol our streets
Our military is on alert
The terrorists have struck
We put on a brave face
We vow to bring justice
But our hearts . . . our hearts grieve
And deep inside, below our anger
Below the confusion
Below the hurt and pain
We’re a nation afraid
Terrorism has never struck so close to home
And we’re afraid of what will come
The two most important words in all history
BUT GOD is still in control
BUT GOD still lives
BUT GOD still loves
BUT GOD is unchanged
If our world is turned upside down
If all that we know is destroyed
If the horizon we’ve known all our lives disappears
If the people we love are gone
Our refuge . . . our fortress. . . our grace giver . . . our life giver . . . our hope . . . our strength . . . our peace . . . OUR ONLY HOPE – THE GOD WHO NEVER CHANGES!!!!!!!
What are your memories of 9.11.01?