Whenever I see a perfect blue sky–cloudless, 80-degree weather–especially in September, something in me responds with a strange hesitancy. It’s almost an unwillingness to accept the day in its splendor.
I vividly recall one such day ten years ago. It was such a delightful Tuesday morning that as I drove along the tree-lined beauty of East Capitol Street on my way to work, I decided to e-mail my friends to meet me outside, instead of in my office, for our weekly lunch-time prayer.
So much for my plans!
That day was to become a watershed moment for the world: September 11, 2001.
When I got to work, it was almost impossible to get online. When I finally did, there was a weird picture of a plane looking like it was hitting a building. What kind of pilot doesn’t know how to fly to avoid a skyscraper? Of course, something far more sinister than pilot error was afoot. And as the reality of the situation unfolded, a straight jacket of terror constrained us all and brought forth a plethora of emotions.
Those blue skies, viewed from the fear-filled doors and windows of my office building, were now tattooed with the black, billowing columns of smoke bursting forth from the Pentagon, just a few miles away.
Some folk left immediately for home; a few, like me, decided to stick it out in the office, having seen the parking lot that the roads around the building had become. Better trapped here than in a car, I thought; at least here I have access to a bathroom!
I knelt under my desk and prayed the most rudimentary prayer I could push out: “Lord, help us.” Later that day, I journaled: “A day of infamy without parallel.”
I finally left around noon and met a coworker on the road, still driving home. She had left the office before 10:00 a.m.
What the heck was this madness? Nothing prepared us for being stripped abruptly of what, clearly, was a false sense of security. We were marred by terrorist acts that left us with a gaping hole in our collective and individual souls. Could we possibly heal?
What did it now mean to be safe? At home? At work? As we travel? How do we look at “other” people without judging? And how does our faith remain intact in a God who promised in His Word to protect and defend us?
I wrestled with it all daily, especially immediately post-9/11. I looked at television numbly, often wondering why I couldn’t pry myself from the images that haunted me. Sleep was a greater struggle than normal. I lost weight. I was scared to travel.
Why did God let this horrible thing happen? Had that fourth plane not crashed in Pennsylvania, I might not even be here today. Why were those of us who worked in downtown D.C. spared? The questions seemed endless.
I don’t think that any of us will ever look at life through the same lens in the aftermath of 9/11. What we can choose to do is to use a God-focused lens to ponder some of the lessons of 9/11.
- How do we respond to entire people groups who are being branded as “the enemy”?
- How do we, as believers, perpetuate the outpouring of unity and support that that horrible day engendered throughout America?
- How do we sustain the genuine desire for God that surfaced after 9/11?
- How do we react to the menace of hardcore religious fundamentalism?
- And where, or with whom, does true security lie?