You scraped it on something, or hit it accidentally. The reopened wound hurts; nerve synapses fire and deliver jabbing, wincing pain. Perhaps even blood and pus oozes, and tears flow, in a fresh remembrance of the injury. It’s gross and uncomfortable, and can illicit bitter questions, sadness, and anger anew. For many Americans, myself included.
Remembering the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is like dealing with a scab that has trouble healing.
I’d like to commiserate with all Americans affected by the 9/11 attacks, especially those deeply affected in a personal way. This event of Biblical proportions has changed us and history significantly, forever.
By late summer of 2001 I had been a Captain for Great Lakes for six months, flying the Beechcraft 1900. I had just returned home from dropping off my precious one year old daughter at her day care at a quaint farmplace a few miles from town. My lovely wife was working a nursing shift at the hospital. We had moved to northwestern Iowa a few months earlier, and I turned on the Today show to check the weather. I was going to pack and drive to Omaha, then fly to Denver to start a trip with Great Lakes.
Something didn’t look right with the picture of the World Trade Center in New York City; it had a huge, smoking gash in it, with towering flames licking the shiny steel beams. An eyewitness said a plane or missile had hit it, and on such a beautiful day. Immediately I knew it wasn’t done by a missile or a small plane, and got a very bad feeling. Moments later I, along with perhaps millions of other Americans, saw the other jetliner hit the second WTC on live TV.
At that moment I had a strong suspicion that I wasn’t going anywhere, and I knew that this event would change us all and change history. Over the next few hours I was reduced to screaming and pleading at the TV, my emotions pacing and ranging from anger, to anguish and sadness, to incredulousness, to helplessness, to resolve, to prayerfulness, and back again. Not one, but two large airliners had been hijacked, and flown on suicide missions into the WTC buildings. Then, like a living nightmare, the hits kept coming, first the Pentagon, then what next? United 93 impacted a field in Pennsylvania after passengers revolted (United 93’s CVR confirms the hijacker pilot intentionally did this).
One big question of the moment I had wasn’t why, but how: “We’re ‘the greatest country in the world’, how could this happen? We have the FBI, CIA, NSA, INS, FAA, Interpol, all their technology, and everything else, and we have the mightiest Air Force on earth, how could this happen?”
My other big question of the moment wasn’t whether the WTC’s will come down, but when. I’m still confounded as to why the WTC security told occupants of the second building to return to their offices before their building was hit. Many more lives could have been saved if they hadn’t done so.
I called my relatives and friends, and Great Lakes crew scheduling. Crew scheduling told me to sit tight, my trip wasn’t cancelled yet. With the smart and soon move of the FAA to ground ALL aircraft, it became very apparent that I wasn’t going anywhere on this day. I was blessed by this; I would’ve absolutely hated getting stuck somewhere (in our great country) sitting with the airplane, and away from my family, for three days until the sky opened up again. My wife would’ve hated it too.
That night churches all across the country, as well as in own our town, held prayer vigils. I didn’t attend any but I did pray, and afterwards more questions surfaced in me, on top of the most painful ones I had. Self centered and selfish I’ll admit they were, but I felt they were ones I had to consider. What will happen to the major airlines now, and their hiring plans? Will I be able to advance to a better job soon? When will the airlines fly again, and what kind of security restrictions will be in place? Will I have a secure, financially rewarding, or safe future in airline flying?
I was flying for Great Lakes again after about five days. The frequencies were very quiet, traffic was mostly non-existent, and the mood was very somber. The attack, and the responses our country had to them, was the deserved focus we had for the next few weeks, months, and years.
The scale of the human tragedy was on a scale we couldn’t comprehend. After it was all boiled down, a resolve for vengeance and justice, and a desire for the security of our people were left. And in large measure, our country’s military and government has taken on that task and performed it fairly well, for good or bad, depending on your politics and beliefs. There certainly have been missteps, and maybe a misplaced war, but I am not going to address that here, this time. This is for the victims, and for personally dealing with the aftermath. This was such a large event of terrorism that all of us are victims, in a sense.
In our peaceful, ‘Christian’, Americanized, materialized, and comforting culture it’s difficult to understand why a group of extremist Islamic terrorists were willing to train for and carry out these despicable terrorist attacks. Another difficult thing to understand is the fact that there are Americans among us who believe untenable, unsound conspiracy theories about these attacks.
And these aren’t your garden variety theories like ‘In different ways the government and Military left the door wide open to these terrorists to attack us, so we could justify the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and control their countries, control the oil and gas there, and attempt to foster peace, democracy, and capitalism in the region’.
These untenable and unsound theories surround the technicalities of the attacks, and don’t have a sound scientific footing. Many of them border on the absurd: the airliners were flown into the buildings under separate radio control (the pilots were unable to overtake control of their own airliners); the Pentagon attack was a missile, not an airliner; United 93 was shot down, not crashed intentionally by the hijackers; the WTC’s had explosives planted inside their structures, otherwise they wouldn’t have fallen; WTC 7 was imploded by the NYFD (even though it was damaged heavily by falling WTC tower debris and had a large interior fire from an emergency diesel generator fire which had heavily damaged the building); and the craziest one of all: the planes didn’t hit the buildings, it was all trick video photography, and the bombs placed inside all the buildings only made it look this way (this would require a huge media conspiracy).
Popular mechanics magazine and National Geographic magazine (Nat Geo channel) have two great websites which refute these claims with solid scientific evidence. Click on the links to check them out, to help you counter the next ‘Truther’ who sits next to you on the airplane.
God won’t answer all the questions of why this happened, he doesn’t work that way. God wants us to desire him, to yearn to follow him, to have a personal spiritual relationship with him. Answering all of our questions (which diminish in importance when compared to his desire for us to have true, eternal life with him and through him) is not his first priority, having a right personal spiritual relationship with him is. Here is a site by Reverend Mark D. Roberts which has some reflections on 9/11 and faith.
However, God can and will give you peace about it, ‘a peace which surpasses all understanding’ from (Philippians 4:7). The ‘lover of my soul’ can also calm your fears and help you to walk in a peaceful field. God is sovereign; we don’t know his ways or his plans, and if we did we might not understand them. He does have a plan for your future, for my future, and for the future of our world and country, and his plans won’t be thwarted.
If you were directly or deeply affected by the 9/11 attacks, you have my sympathies. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.
From Psalm 34:4 and 34:18, the Father of us all delivers comfort: 4 “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears (NKJV); 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (NLT).
There is a plan, and Romans 8:28-39 gives more insight and comfort to believers: “ 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)
To be sure, my stance is that no, we don’t know why God permits such great pain and evil to be present in this world, but that he is our great comforter and peacegiver. Being open to and interested in the message and the mystery of the gospel is a first step not to making sense of these events, but to gaining a greater peace about it.