People always say they remember exactly where they were when they learn of a tragedy. Fourteen years ago, I was feeding my 2-month-old son and watching a bit of the TODAY show. I will never forget the breaking news that an airplane had just hit one of the Twin Towers in New York City. I watched in horror as the second plane hit and the towers came crumbling down. I saw people jumping to their deaths and the entire streets fill up with smoke and dust. The hair still stands up on my arms when I think about it. In tears, I remember placing my innocent baby down in his crib, and crying, “Lord, what kind of world did I just bring this child into?” I was scared, sickened and sad for our country.
I just finished reading Hoda Kotb’s book “Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives.” While it wasn’t particularly well written, the stories are truly unbelievable — and inspiring. One of the persons featured was Ron Clifford, who had a meeting at the World Trade Center the morning of 9/11. After his meeting, Ron was planning to go home and celebrate his daughter’s 11th birthday. Ron was in the lobby when the planes hit. In the midst of utter chaos, he encountered a woman in dire need of help. She was burned over 90% of her body (from falling jet fuel) and couldn’t see. He eventually found her medical help. He then fled to the harbor, where he was the last man to get on a ferry to New Jersey — and saw the Twin Towers collapse. To add to the horror, Ron learned his sister and 4-year-old niece were among the passengers on United Flight 175 from Boston — the plane that hit the building he had been standing in. While he can’t go near the site of the now-memorial, he has been a key player as a witness in the trial against Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker, and is now one of 40 civilians due to give evidence at the military tribunal of Sheik Mohammed.
Every time we travel with our kids, we remind them that before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, airport screening was completely different. We didn’t have to pack our liquids separately, or take off our shoes, or walk through metal detectors. In fact, when I was in elementary school, we actually ran around the international airport at night playing tag and watching the planes come in — and we didn’t have tickets to go anywhere!
Sometime after 9/11, I came upon these verses in John 16:2-3. Jesus warns “in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that just gives me chills.
I am saddened by how our world has changed for us and for our children. Yet, there are stories like Ron’s, which remind me there are good people in the world. I am praying for those who wake up not just today, on 9/11, but every day, missing the ones they love. It’s the worst part of life…that thing called death.
Now I’m not a theologian or preacher or anywhere close, but I do love my Jesus. And I will lean on the big promise Jesus offers a little further into John 16. Verse 33 declares: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In spite of the inevitable struggles we face, we are never alone. Because God created us in his likeness, he has given us as humans choices: choices to do good or do evil. Some choose evil. And while God never promises that evil won’t affect us, he does promise us he is always with us. Through Jesus, the ultimate victory has already been won and justice will be served; we can claim the peace of Christ in the most troublesome times. And while we can’t take the day back, we can remember: the lost, the loved, the heroes and the stories.
So tell me, where were you on that day?