But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me" [Psalm 3:3 CEB]
Twenty years ago. September 11, 2001. “Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?” as the Alan Jackson song goes. “Did you stand there in shock at the site of the black smoke rising against the blue sky?” Those of you who were old enough to remember that day certainly cannot un-remember it. Where were you when you heard the news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center?
I had just picked up some senior citizen ladies from the nearby retirement community and brought them to an event at the church, First UMC, Winter Park, where I was an associate pastor. When I got back to my office, Jayne called my office phone, (I didn’t have a cell phone then) and told me to turn on the TV because a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York City. All we had at the church was a television that picked up a grainy signal on one of the broadcast stations—no smart TVs back then. But it was enough to see the horror of that day.
Jayne was at home with 2-year-old Natalie and was pregnant with our youngest, Meredith. I just wanted to get home to them. Once I knew the ladies were safe back at the retirement community, I rushed straight home—to find out that a second plane had crashed into the other tower.
As we now look back over the 20 years since that tragic day, we not only remember the events of that day—the two towers crashing to the earth, the twisted rubble at the Pentagon, and the smoldering field of the crash of Flight 93 near Shanksville, PA, but we also remember the gut-wrenching emotions we experienced on that day—shock, dismay, panic, anger. The sheer terror that we had come face-to-face with pure evil.
Yet, we also remember the heroic acts, those who rose to the occasion amid the danger and performed super-human deeds of bravery and courage. The first responders who ran up the stairs of the building as those escaping the terror were running down the stairs. The passengers on Flight 93 who valiantly subdued the hijackers so that plane would not crash into a populated area, saving hundreds or thousands of lives. The rescuers who searched through the rubble at the Pentagon to find survivors while flames burned all around them. Those that demonstrated the “better angels of our nature.”
So, here we are at the crossroads of the 20th anniversary of that tragic day to remember anew. Firstly, to remember and honor those whose lives were lost. Yet we also see that day through the eyes of the crucified Christ. In Jesus, God took the evil, sin, violence, and pain of the world into the very flesh of Christ and died. It is also a time to be reassured that through all the horrors and heroics of that day 20 years ago, we must not forget that Jesus rose triumphantly over death and sin to give us life. Abundant and eternal life. Thanks be to God.