I remember September 12, 2001 almost as vividly as I remember the Tuesday before it. One day actually seemed to bleed into the next as I simply could not turn off the TV. The day was a blur of commentary on the prior day’s events. The night however was so much different. It was church night and I was serving as an assistant recreation minister at my church. I will never forget explaining to a group of very concerned and frightened upper elementary age kids what had happened and just why so many people had been lost. We huddled around a small computer screen as an adult pulled up the picture of the firemen who bravely went up the stairs, as everyone else was going down. It was the reality that hit me in that moment. The reality that indeed, things would never be the same, that my children would never know the world that I had known growing up. The radio stations played tributes over and over again. It was like a nightmare that you just couldn’t escape. The sad part about that statement is that I was so far away from the attack. I didn’t know anyone in New York. I didn’t know anybody at the Pentagon, and I had no relation to anyone on the flight 93. Yet it was like all of America was in the same fog I was in. It was this unyielding desire to do something, but no one could figure out what to do. And so time passed, and the memory of publicly aired mass murder seared its way into my mind. The sound of airplanes in the sky slowly began to become a welcome sound in my ears again. The news of wars that still rage in other parts of the war became the place to seek retribution for the attacks on the country that I love so much. Then the songs began to hit the airwaves. I don’t remember how long it took for the tribute songs and the patriotic songs to hit the radios, and music television stations. The question asked by Allen Jackson rings in my mind today, “Where were you when the world stopped turning?” It’s a striking metaphor and certainly captures the feeling of how America felt collectively on that bright Tuesday morning. It seemed that everything simply stopped and the voices of some 3,000 people echoed from the other side of eternity while lady Liberty’s heart broke.
Though it felt that for those seemingly eternal hours that the world did indeed stop we can look back and see that it did not. The world continued to move. A celebration of Jihadist victory became a sudden retreat as the might of America’s armed forces honed in on the mountains of Torra Borra. Clean up and rescue efforts blazed instantly at ground zero. America mobilized. From the moment the first plane hit America moved into action. Police and Fire personnel went into the Trade Center towers. Passengers on flight 93 fought back. We did not stop for one second. Sure we paused to acknowledge the massive loss, and we still take such a pause, but we never stopped.
The resiliency of America is not lost in a generation gap. Rather it is passed on. The veterans of the two World Wars told their stories, and shared with their children what the price of Freedom for this country is. They reminded my generation as we grew up that when you are the one on top someone will always seek a way to push you down. Thus the younger generations, generations who had never witnessed such terrible atrocities carried out again America, were given the opportunity for a defining moment, and they shined. We fought, we battled, and we went on with life regardless of what had been done. We accepted a war that will most likely not end for a very long time. Ten years later we still have troops battling on foreign soil against the same radical group that murdered thousand in only a few hours. We go on because we understand that to stop being American is to give in to the demands of an evil ideal. An ideal that one man has the power to exact his will over the masses for his own personal gain.
Today I watch the halls of a middle school. I am struck by the thought that these children were babies, toddler when those planes came crashing into their targets. They are too young to have felt the sense of anguish that this country felt on that clear fall day ten years ago. In ten years since I have spent nights praying for a close cousin who served this country in Afghanistan. I have worried about students who have left my ministry and served over seas. I have stood over the casket of a student killed in action on foreign soil. My resolve is not shaken to weakness. As I watch these students go about their Monday routine ten years and one day after those attacks, I am reminded that the world keeps moving. God’s purpose is still moving to fulfillment. That this country, for all of its faults and failures is still a place of hope and freedom, and that it has now passed to us to tell the coming generations what it means to be American, what it means to be a United States. It is now on us to show the world that fear has no place in our lives, and that though you may cause us to pause, you will not cause us to stop. And whether you like it or not, this country was founded upon Godly principles. Yes it took us many years to really understand what that meant, and we still struggle with it, but we move ahead anyways. We will bicker and fuss over matters of politics. We will criticize our leadership, and we will share our disdain through whatever media we have at our disposal, but we will still sing the “Star Spangled Banner”. We will still salute the flag. We will still cheer at the words, “Land of the free and the home of the brave,” because that is who we are. And as I watch my son play, I will smile knowing that he has every opportunity before him because when all is said and done, this is still a place where you can be anything you want to be if you will only work for it. God bless us, God bless the United States of America, we need You know more than ever.