Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

I don't think I can let this day go by without saying something. I don't have any real deep revelation or anything, just reflections...

That day seven years ago is seared into my memory, down to what I was wearing - a white cotton polo shirt and my favorite overalls, the ones held together by safety pins. I remember getting in my car to head out to the other side of campus for my intro to tech class. I remember hearing something on the radio, but not really understanding what it was. Then I walked into the tech center where there were televisions mounted on the walls - all tuned into various news outlets, broadcasting the news of the terrorist attacks on our country. I stood there, numb, watching as the first tower fell. That is the only time in my life I have ever heard a reporter stutter and be completely without words to say. I remember going to my classes - which for some ridiculous reason weren't canceled - and thinking "the world is coming to an end, and I am sitting in Intro to Technology. What's wrong with this picture?"

I remember the next day or so. I remember poor Peter Jennings going 48 hours straight on nothing but coffee and andrenaline - by the end of Wednesday night, the man was almost incoherant. But he kept us all updated. I remember surfing the cable in my dorm room to see how stations were handling it - each one of them was either broadcasting a news outlet or had posted a message telling viewers to go watch one. I remember the dire warnings about gas, but I didn't bother going to fill up - I figured, what's the point? So I'll just be out next week instead of the week after. Why fight the crowds? I remember the special church service Wednesday night. I remember my roommate, Kim, and I finally getting tired of news coverage and putting on "The Blues Brothers" because we needed to laugh.

I remember the numbness. You would think I would have rabid emotions going through me, but honestly, it was such an incredible event that for a long time, I was simply numb. Every time they showed footage of the planes hitting the towers, it was as if my mind shut down. My brain could not physically process such a sight. It had no frame of reference. In the midst of the numbness, there was fear. No one knew what would happen next. I remember the relief as the day wore on and nothing else happened...and yet, something had changed. We were no longer bystanders in the Middle Eastern conflict. It suddenly went beyond oil. Now we had skin in the game. A group of people tried to kill as many of us as they could - not as a result of a declared war, not in response to a particular event, but just because we are who we are. The world shrank that day, and Americans' lost the bubble that we were immune to the world's troubles.

Sure, we had experienced things like Columbine and the Oklahoma City bombing. Those are the major news tragedies I remember from my childhood. But those were isolated events, horrible nightmares that were carried out by one or two crazy people. You felt like those could be prevented through working with kids to make sure they didn't grow up to be Timothy McVeigh. This was different. This was a particular group of people whose one objective was to kill as many Americans as possible, and they didn't care if they died in the process. It was different from the Cold War of my parents' era. Then, at least, we were "fighting" a power that had somewhat of the same value of life that we did. Russia did not want to bomb us any more than we wanted to bomb them. But the Islamic fundamentalists are different. They don't care if what they do brings about the end of the world - in fact, they consider it an honor to bring as much destruction to themselves and others as possible. They see their cause as just and righteous. And that day, seven years ago, we became embroiled into the World's Oldest Living Family Argument. And it changed the world around us forever.

As I looked at my children today, I realized they will never live in a world where there wasn't a 9/11. They will grow up learning words like "terrorist," and not just in context of another country like I did. This is their norm. This is their world. Life will forever carry the shadow of the smoldering rubble of the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania. They will always know the name Osama Bin Laden, even if we do manage to find him. These are the normal things of their world.

So - where do we go from here? I guess the question, as I look back on all these reflections, is the one I am learning to come back to - "What is that to me, Lord?" What do we do from here? First and foremost, we pray. We pray for our country. We pray for Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel. We pray for Islam to be exposed for what it is. We pray for the turning of hearts of the fundamentalists. We pray for our government and our armed forces, who are confronting this battle every day. In addition, we must not forget. Americans have notoriously short memories. We must remember what happened on our soil. Never forget the brave sacrifice of so many.

We must also come to the realization that the world has such great evil in it. Joel Rosenberg, an author I greatly admire, says this in several of his books: "To misunderstand the nature of evil is to be blindsided by it." Americans don't like to think of evil. We like to think there is just good - maybe different shades of good, but all good nonetheless. And that kind of thinking leads to destruction, because there are absolute forces of evil out there that seek to steal, kill, and destroy us. We have to face that and be ready. Be ready in our homes, be ready in our hearts. Be ready with the Lord. He, the Ultimate Good, is the only thing that stands between us and those forces of evil. Things are only going to get worse from here - but the Lord wins it all in the end. So, get ready. Don't forget what happened this day. Teach your children. And remember that the Lord utters His voice before His army.

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