I was just about to leave for the office and the Today Show was on. The first plane had hit and no one really knew why for a few minutes. The second plane removed all doubt. The next few hours were filled with phone calls with church members who had loved ones somewhere in the airspace over the US and invitations to an impromptu prayer service that evening. Before Facebook and with no advance notice, a record crowd filled our auditorium.
Few events have shaped the face of our nation like the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. As a nation we felt fear, shock, disbelief, grief, anger, and a range of other emotions. Church attendance rose to decades-high levels for six months. The way we viewed “security” changed dramatically and we buried once and for all our illusion of invincibility.
The victims of that day’s attacks should be remembered and honored, and each of us who observed that moment should never again take for granted the gift of life and freedom. The world has always been at war, but for Americans, the reality of war has been felt in an altogether different way for the last fourteen years. As the old military song says, we always perceived war as happening “over there.” Even the horrific memory of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was a wartime attack on a military installment by a nation with whom tension had reached a snapping point.
9/11 was unpredictable, unexpected, and unforgettable. It involved ordinary citizens from all walks of life – men, women, and children from many different ethnic backgrounds. Some were wealthy stock brokers and others were hourly employees. Many were first responders and emergency workers and none realized that they’d reported to work for the final moments of their lives.
There are many things to remember about that day, but the one greatest truth I carry from it personally is my personal sense of vulnerability. I am not invincible. And because I am not invincible, I need God. We all need God. Our nation, this amazing collective community of diverse human beings we call America, needs God. And as we mourn, as we pray, and as we seek answers from beyond this earthly home, we confess our inadequacy and our need to be strengthened and filled with hope from One who is indeed invincible.
May we never forget the sacrifices of so many heroes in the aftermath. May we never forget the generosity shown by those who donated their time, their money, and their blood to the cause of recovery. And may we never forget our collective, universal need for the forgiveness, grace, mercy, peace, protection, and provision of our Almighty Creator and the priceless gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
I have watched several times over the years the video of Billy Graham’s words at a specially called prayer service in the week following the 9/11 attacks…
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