West Franklin Family,
Literally seconds before I sat down to type this letter an airplane flew over my head. It is a beautiful morning in Franklin, Tennessee. When the weather is like this, I sit outside my office at our campus. Moments ago, an airplane flew over where I am sitting. I think it was a Southwest aircraft. Twenty years later I still find myself haunted by airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York City. I am not sure I have ever witnessed an airplane fly overhead since without thinking about the horrific events that happened on this day in 2001.
Where were you on that day?
I was in a classroom at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Preaching Practicum. It was the class where aspiring preachers learned how to preach. Not why preach or how to prepare a sermon. That was another course. This was the one where I had to prepare and actually preach several sermons in front of my professor and peers throughout the semester. The professor was gracious in giving me a passing grade. If you think my sermons are rough now. . . my goodness.
Dr. Argile Smith was lecturing when a student from another class opened the door and frantically shouted that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centers. I remember thinking how odd that was. How sad it was for the people in the plane and building. I wondered how something like that could happen. Moments later, another student declared a second plane had hit a second tower. Something wasn’t right.
A half hour later, I was in chapel with my fellow seminarians. I remember the chapel sanctuary being full and there being a sense of fear and anxiety, mixed with curiosity and confusion. Bizarre, to say the least. We sang a few hymns. Dr. Smith gave a powerful message from Psalm 46 (to this day I am amazed he could adjust what he had planned to preach at a moment’s notice . . . “be ready in season and out”). The seminary President (Chuck Kelley) announced the school was closing for the day and sent us home. I headed an hour and a half north where I lived and pastored (Amite, Louisiana). In our mobile home, parked next to the church building, Katie and I spent the rest of the day glued to our television as the awful events unfolded.
Where were you on that day? And how has God demonstrated His faithfulness since?
Know what’s funny? I have no idea what I was doing on September 10th, 2001. And I don’t remember what I did on September 12th, 2001. But I vividly remember the 11th. It’s interesting how I cannot look at an airplane now and not think about it flying into a skyscraper somewhere. Yet hundreds of thousands (if not millions?) of airplanes have taken off and landed since then without any problems. Hundreds of thousands of seminary classes have continued without interruption. Hours of television watched without a thought of being interrupted with a new death toll from a terrorist attack. I can remember where I was on that unforgettable day. I can recall, verbatim almost, how the tragic events unfolded. Twenty years later, it is still more fresh than I want it to be. And yet, there are millions of ways God has been faithful that are (unfortunately) far removed from my conscious radar.
Twenty years later and I am still here.
Twenty years later and I have three teenagers in my home.
Twenty years later and I have gray in my beard.
Twenty years later and I am still in awe of the first responders in and around New York City and Washington, D.C.
Twenty years later and I have gotten out of bed with my heart beating with no assistance from me.
Twenty years later and the Father has walked with me through some horrible stuff.
Twenty years later and my wife still wears my wedding ring.
Twenty years later and I still get to preach the Word to the people of God.
Twenty years later and I still talk to my dad on the phone every Monday.
Twenty years later and I still get frustrated at how good the University of Alabama is at football.
Twenty years later and I still love the taste of well cooked barbecue pork.
Twenty years of laughing, crying, eating, sleeping, snorting, hugging, praying, preaching, teaching, seeing, hearing, breathing, baptizing, pandemic-enduring, and living.
Twenty years later and I can still sing with gusto, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
Where were you on this day twenty years ago? How has God proved His faithfulness?
God was faithful to meet us and help us and walk with us through the events that transpired on September 11th, 2001. He will be faithful today. And twenty years from now, wherever we are, we’ll still be singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Let me encourage you to remember where you were twenty years ago today. Pray for those who tragically lost so much in the blink of an eye. And, please, don’t let the day go by without reflecting on God’s goodness since.
Grace and Peace from Our Faithful Father,
God willing, I will see you in the morning with my Bible open to Isaiah 6:1-8. We will reflect the reality – “God Is Holy.”