It’s September, and once again our thoughts turn back to the events of twenty-two years ago when our nation was forever changed. A friend who was there writes: “Every time we have a beautiful day around this time of year I always think, wow! today looks just like that day . . . That day in New York was one of the most beautiful days I have ever seen–Diamond clear sky, not a cloud–not one . . . Oh God, why?” (Jayne Kennedy).
I was in class in Anniston, Alabama, far from the horrifying events. I remember everyone being called to assembly immediately. We were told that our nation was under attack. Parents began to rush in to pick up their children, and even for those who stayed, not much classroom instruction took place for the rest of the day. Because we were very close to Anniston Army Depot and Ft. McClellan (where chemical weapons were stored), we were more than a little concerned that the next plane might come our way. No one really knew anything. It is not a day I will ever forget.
On the one-year anniversary, one of my students offered a different perspective: “Here we stand–still tense, still mourning, yet still strong. What has changed? Nothing from a spiritual aspect. Once again we have banned prayer in school. We have taken Him out of the law. After the shock faded, we said, ‘OK, God. We’re good now, so leave. We don’t need you; don’t want you. Thanks for your help, now get out.’ When times are great, we don’t want Him. When our hopes are devastated and our lives falling apart, we demand Him back. We treat Him like a slave. Now that everything is alright, we decide He had nothing to do with it. The same God we called on, is now the one we spit on” (from a 7th grade essay on the first year anniversary).
A 9th grade student wrote: “I didn’t really change because of the events [of 9/11]. I do have a more patriotic attitude, but mainly because it became the thing to do. I don’t hold a grudge toward Muslims or foreigners because it wasn’t their fault; we can only blame the terrorists. Our nation changed for the good. We turned to God, we were nicer and more sympathetic, and we had more unity. But now that it’s no longer in the news, we have gone back to our old selves. We still remember it. We just lost interest.”
Today, my students write:
“Every year we watch a video on this day, and it is very real and sad. Reflecting on the event makes death feel incredibly real” (10th grade student).
“That day started out as any normal day with people just thinking they would be on a normal flight. Now we have intense airport security to help prevent something like this from happening again. Many people get annoyed with airport security, but it is a very important part of traveling to keep everyone safe” (10th grade student).
“I feel as if now, we don’t acknowledge the tragedy of 9/11. I remember in elementary school, we would take time in every class to pray, but we hardly even discuss it or pray about it any more” (12th grade student).
“One of the most pivotal events of modern American history: September 11th, 2001. This day alone has had a profound effect on modern day life. While we may not have been alive to experience it, this event is ingrained in modern day life. From heightened security around the world, to tightened global relations, the effects can still be felt to this day. Thousands of lives were lost, hundreds of phone calls to families were made. To some, 9/11 is a tragic reminder of what has been, and to others, it’s just another day of history” (12th grade student).
To those not directly impacted, the day has been reduced to videos, airport regulations, and a couple pages in the history books.
In her article “10 Verses to Guide Our Reflection: the Painful Events of 9/11” (9/10/19), Lynette Kittle offers biblical guidance as we remember:
1. Remember with Respectfulness:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15)
2. Remember with Compassion:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3)
3. Remember without Fear:
“In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11)
4. Remember by Trusting God:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
5. Remember with Assurance of God’s Presence:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
6. Remember with God’s Promise:
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25)
7. Remember with Purpose:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21)
8. Remember with Forgiveness:
9. Remember by Reaching Out:
“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21)
10. Remember by Recognizing God’s Justice:
“But let the one who boasts, boast about this: that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight’” (Jeremiah 9:24)
As horrible as the experience was on that terrible day in 2001, we were, as a nation, able to gain a new perspective of, and appreciation for, our first responders. Hopefully, prayerfully, that appreciation will not fade into oblivion. They are still among us, big city, small town, everywhere we are. Many valiant and courageous men and women have taken on those professions since the events of 9/11, walking into them with open eyes because they want to make a difference. They are all heroes, and I praise God that they stand as a shield every day between me and disaster. My prayer is that God will be a shield about them for choosing, as He did, a life of sacrifice.
On the outside
He looks like anyone else–
Just your average Joe–
With car payments, family concerns, utility bills;
Who laughs at a good joke, cheers on his team, enjoys his days off;
Who sneezes, shivers, falls asleep in his favorite chair,
Just like any other man
Until . . .
In the moment of your need,
(Not his own; not his family’s)
He lays his life on the line
And does all he can–
Inhaling the smoke, feeling the blood, hearing the screams, taking the bullet,
And at the end of the day
He doesn’t pat himself on the back
And sometimes he dreams of the one who made it,
And sometimes he dreams of the one who did not,
Every one a part of him forever,
Knowing he’ll rise to do it again,
Never preaching about sacrifice,
But always living it.
- This was written about a man, but we owe equal gratitude to every woman who also serves or has served.