Remembering 9/11

Every year - at least since 2001 - coming to 9/11 has been sobering.  Has it really been 17 years since that awful day?  I remember like it was last week. 

I was preparing for a school day at Corsicana Christian Academy.  We were having our daily briefing and prayer time when our attendance secretary broke in and told us a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  Eleven years earlier, as a college senior on my first trip to NYC, I saw the Trade Centers and felt like it was the very symbol of the city.  The weather where we were was crystal clear and beautiful as it was in NYC.  To think of someone crashing into them was unthinkable - how could you NOT see them?  Our headmaster called on me to pray for those affected.  Little did we know it would be all of us. 

Ours was a small school.  I took the one and only TV we had and set it up in my classroom.  I was supposed to be teaching Bible and philosophy that day but the lesson plans got cast aside quickly.  Just as we turned the TV on, the second plane hit.  I thought it was a replay and then noticed the other tower was already smoking.  My students - high schoolers - saw the stunned look on my face and grew worried too.  Questions came fast and furious.  The sad reality was that I had no answers and told them so.  We were in a new reality and all of us realized it.  We didn't know what that new reality would be like but we knew things had changed.  Forever. 

I sat there the whole day watching the tragedy unfold.  When the first tower fell, I couldn't help but weep.  Not heaving sobs so as not to upset my students any further but that's certainly what I felt.  I knew there was no way I was going to be able to keep myself in check forever.  Really, I just wanted to go home, take Julie with me and lock the door behind us.  As soon as the school day was over, that's exactly what we did.

I'll never forget going home that night.  Everything seemed different.  When Julie and I finished our school day, we watched some of the news reports and wept as we saw people literally fleeing for their lives.  Some of that footage, I've never seen again, perhaps buried so it doesn't incite anger.  As the live shots of NYC and DC continued, it seemed as if the cities were bleeding.  I wanted the smoke to clear so badly.  It would be days before it would. 

Once I got home, the pastor part kicked in.  I got a call from another pastor and we quickly put together a prayer meeting at his church (a larger facility than mine).  We announced it as best we could and got it on the radio.  We had about 300.  Packed out.  People standing in the back.  I was shocked.  Things had indeed changed. 

So now, 17 years later, are things really different?  Yes - there's more division, anger, vitriol and mean talk than ever before.  We cannot stay where we are - as a nation - and hope to find the resolve necessary to continue.  I'm grieved and even sickened by some of the talking heads - on all sides - who seek to exploit every opportunity for political gain.  I'm angered by those who want to claim God on matter that are not eternal.  I'm frustrated by the lack of civil discourse in any context.  We are more polarized and separated than we ever have been.  How can we hope to change?  There's only one answer - Jesus.  Satan's handiwork is clear.  Jesus told us Satan came to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10).  That's a short-hand version for our culture right now.  We must turn back to the only who came to give life and give it in it's fullness.  The question doesn't begin at the macro level but at the micro level - with each of us individually.  Begin NOW for yourself and then lead your family.  We won't get there today but we can start - and indeed we must.