As today’s date has approached, I found myself thinking about this day in 2001. That terrible, awful day.
I will never forget it. As long as I live.
Living on the west coast as I do, I had risen that morning at 5 to the sound of the clock radio. There had been some inane story on the news that irked me that day, I don’t remember what it was except it was a story of injustice that threatened to wreck my day – so I got ready for work in silence instead of listening to the news. A rarity – being a news junkie, it was not at all normal for me.
I had breakfast, got in the car, and left for work, again with no radio on. Uncharacteristic, again. I had arrived at 6am due to deadlines, the only one in my department at that hour, and sat down at my computer to get to work….. I suddenly realized that I was expecting an email response from a friend about lunch, and logged in to my personal email to see if her reply had arrived – and then I saw it. A news ticker email I subscribed to had arrived.
I don’t remember exactly what the subject line said, just something about New York City, and explosions. I ran over to the neighboring video department, since I knew they had a television. My friend who worked on the video team was in early, too, and had just turned on the news. He stood staring at the screen in utter shock.
I joined him. And we wept in silence.
I remember so clearly the heartsick stab in the depth of my chest. I felt physical pain as faces of friends flashed through my mind. Friends from my days in New York City in the early 90s, people who I worked with at One World Trade Center at my first job in the city. The face of a friend who was a firefighter in Queens. Other friends who worked downtown. Friends who I had lost touch with, who I didn’t know how to reach.
My coworker and I watched the news in horror. The shock was overwhelming.
As the rest of the staff began to arrive – people who had already heard what had happened on their way to work – they joined us in front of the television. After we stood together, unable to grasp what we were seeing, someone had the presence of mind to suggest we pray. We joined hands, cried, and prayed. The most fervent prayers went unspoken, I know. It was hard to utter words in the midst of soul-crushing pain, when it looked as though evil was winning.
I remember little of what was spoken in that prayer circle in that first hour of the terror attack. The only thing that penetrated, that resonated, that broke through the fear, was Psalm 91:
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
I had to focus on what I knew was true. God was not going to be knocked off His throne by this or anything else. He is still my refuge. Still my fortress. Still worthy of my trust.
The entire company joined together in chapel later in the morning for prayer (it was a Christian nonprofit)…..many of us didn’t last through the day. Parents were anxious to hug children. I went home and hugged my pets, watched the repeated re-runs of the footage for days, imagining the credits would roll at some point and prove this was all a tragic Hollywood film.
To this day, those credits haven’t rolled. The “end” hasn’t been seen; we don’t get to go back to days of innocence. Ongoing wars across the Middle East, morphing terrorist organizations, our own citizens inspired by evil to perpetrate evil, and new threats from Asia growing.
And yet one thing remains: God is still on His throne. And He always will be.
Although the memory of September 11, 2001 reminds us of that day and tries to freshen our fear – let’s resolve to fight fear with faith. Fear will always try to win. Not only are the terrorists working to keep us scared and shake our faith – our own political leaders are even attempting to do the same, whether they know it or not, to scare us into following whatever plans they have.
But the only thing we need rely on is what is true, no matter what. God is our refuge. Our fortress. And He is on His throne today, He will be there tomorrow, and He’s going to stay there forever. No matter what.
Never forget. Pray for the families of the victims, and for those first responders who continue to struggle to this day with medical issues and tragic memories of things no one should see.