The thing I remember most about September 11, 2001 is not the images of planes flying into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, or of New York firefighters running into the twin towers. It isn’t the ghostly pictures and video of the forever altered New York skyline afterward.
Of course, on the day itself I was consumed by watching news coverage like everyone else was. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know if some foreign army was going to come charging into my neighborhood like in that Red Dawn movie. I remember seeing still pictures of people falling from the towers, and wanting someone to blame, someone to hate. It was that very day we got someone to demonize, to hate, and to hunt.
I wanted payback, just like everyone else did (the double tap from SEAL team six would not come for 10 more years).
Yet after the initial burst of horror, I began to see that the world was still going to keep turning. The United States was not going to be subject to an invasion, at least not right then.
More and more information kept coming out in the days and weeks following the attacks. There were so many stories of heroism, and quiet accounts of Grace where you would have least expected it. Out of all those things, what got to me most was the phone calls.
Many of the passengers on the doomed flights were able to call loved ones and speak to them before their deaths. I can’t imagine have to either make or receive that sort of phone call, but in the midst of what they were going through it was probably a blessing, and by most accounts, gave those making the calls some peace in their final moments.
That’s what I remember most about September 11, 2001.
To the best of my knowledge, none of those calls featured words of hate. Rather, in their last moments, those men and women thought of their loved ones, and in many cases, thought of God. I think of Todd Beamer, who along with a few other passengers, was about to try and take back the plane from the hijackers on United Flight 93. Beamer, unable to reach his wife, spoke with an operator, I think, and asked her to tell his family several things, none of which was regarding hate.
Because hate does not sustain. Hate destroys. Hate piloted those planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennysylvania.
It is love that sustains, and love that carried the passengers on those flights to their maker that clear morning. I didn’t think about it like that for years, but time, and healing, and experiencing that love myself has given me much perspective.
I don’t know how different I am now from the person I was on 9/11/2001. Those who knew me then would have to tell me. But I know the anger I felt then is not with me anymore. What I felt was righteous anger and a desire for vengeance toward the perpetrators of that day just seemed to melt away with the years, and a growing closeness to God.
Yes, it was a tragedy of incomprehensible proportions, and yes, I hate that it happened. But that feeling doesn’t clinch like a fist in my stomach any longer when I think of it. It doesn’t because the sustaining love of Christ Jesus has replaced the fear, and anger, and obsessive need for vengeance.
I felt it–felt all those things–just like you did, and many still do.
Just to be clear, I am not certain I believe the age-old maxim that time heals all wounds. I think in this case–in my case–love healed much more than time ever could on its own. I allowed my past to pull me farther and farther from God, and at the time it made perfect sense to me. I could retreat into the fortress of self-pity and entitlement I had built for myself, and hate all the people I blamed for my lot in life.
I can remember what that felt like, even though I do not feel it anymore, and haven’t in a number of years.
Loving God brought me closer to Him, and I allowed him into my withered heart, where He took up residence and remains today.
Without that, I would be nothing. Without that, I, too, would be withered. If I was lucky enough to still be alive.
I was not sustained by the hate I felt toward anyone or anything. I can see that so clearly now.
Let me close with a great Third Day song…