This morning Joanna, Monica, and I watched a special re-cap of the events that occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001. It brought back the events of that day fresh and anew.
I remember exactly where we were on September 11, 2001.
Sharon, Joanna, Monica, and I had flown out to Rockford, Illinois, to be with the Berean Baptist Church the previous Saturday for their Fall Revival with Dr. Sam Gipp. We awoke that Tuesday morning, got ready, ate our continental breakfast, and then Pastor Mark Swanson (the Youth pastor) arrived to take us to the church for several school chapels.
"Did you hear that a plane hit one of the twin towers in New York?" he asked us as we drove to the church.
He turned on the radio and we listened in disbelief to the news reports flooding in. The hotel breakfast room had had their TV on, but not on the news channel and so we had heard nothing yet. We arrived at the church and prepared to sing for several chapel services that morning.
I remember coming out of one chapel service and sitting in the church office listening to the radio. The news reporter was giving an eyewitness account of the first tower falling. There was obvious terror in his voice and the sounds behind him were eerie--sirens blaring, people shouting and running, and other loud noises you couldn't quite decipher. We had to leave the office and head into another chapel service...where Joanna and I did a mime/short skit for the kids along with our songs. It was tough pretending that everything was going okay in our country at that moment. There was shock, fear, and a sort of numbness that pervaded my mind. Was this really happening to my beloved country?
One of the teachers at the school had a TV in her homeroom and we watched the news after the services were over. I was overcome by the sight of the second plane hitting the second Tower. Having been in downtown Manhattan before, I had a little grasp on the area, but couldn't even imagine what the New Yorkers must have been feeling as they watched terrorists attack their city (though they didn't realize at first what was happening).
Due to the attacks, our plans for flying home were de-railed as flights all across the nation were cancelled. We had to devise another way to meet up with Dad and Mom, who were in Delaware with our bus and motorhome. We were scheduled to be in NYC for a meeting. We called Dad and arranged to meet him in Pennsylvania, about the halfway point.
Pastor Mark graciously agreed to drive us to meet Dad. Mrs. Regina (Pastor Mark's wife) was crying as she said goodbye to him. We loaded up in a church van and took off. For some reason, we didn't stop to get a map and ended up driving through the heart of Chicago. The weird thing was...we didn't hear one single plane. That was really spooky...we're talking downtown Chicago! We also had to make an out-of-the way stop for some tracts that were left for us at the Lifegate building in Indiana.
We stopped once at a Steak n' Shake. The service was slow and we were getting a little antsy to be on our way. As we got back in the van, Sharon remarked, "Those folks are kinda slow, don't they?" You could tell we were all a little out of it, by that point. At a gas station somewhere along the way, we saw some teens standing by the road with homemade signs, cheering for America. Though we were whipped, we added our cheers to theirs.
Pastor Mark had been driving almost non-stop and was so tired that he started to go off the road at one point during the night. Sharon had offered to drive, but Pastor Mark wouldn't hear of it. It was quite the ride! We finally made it to Pennsylvania and stayed in a church mission house that night.
Dad drove us the rest of the way to NYC for a Ladies meeting at the Open Door Bible Baptist Church in Queens. Our brother-in-law, Pete Montoro, is the pastor and is married to our oldest sister. They had almost decided to cancel the meeting due to the trouble of getting folks into Queens after bridges and roadways had been closed off, but they went ahead and had the meeting anyhow.
The four of us were so tired from traveling through the night, so we tried to rest in the nursery. The sound of fighter jets flying over the building was none too settling. Our nephews and nieces were all excited, but to me it represented a very scary time for everyone. The Lord blessed the meeting and His presence was real to us. They told us that there were Muslims not too far away celebrating the attacks on our country...right in NYC! I was...angry, to say the least! I was utterly amazed that they would have the audacity to do that.
I still remember hearing the military planes flying in over the church property once we made it back to Delaware...they were taking the bodies of victims to the airforce base in Dover. There was this feeling of, "What is going to happen next? Will our country go to war?"
A week later I was reading my daily dose of Proverbs, chapter 18. Verse 10 leapt out at me with ringing clarity:
"The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."
I thought of the hundreds of people that had perished in the towers that day, as well as at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Surely some knew Jesus Christ, and He was their Tower on that day! But many more did not know Him, I'm sure. How heart-rending it was to think that they had no strong Tower to run to on the day it mattered most!
This verse certainly gave comfort to me over the next few months. I look back on that day and thank God for this land in which I was born, the heroes who unreservedly gave their lives for others on that terrible day in September 2001, the ones who sacrificed everything so that I could enjoy these past years without fear of another attack on our great country and its freedoms.
I thank the many thousands of families who have given their sons and daughters in the past eight years for the cause of freedom. I remember with pride those who fought valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan so that we would not have to experience another 9/11. I honor them today.
If you are one of those who suffered a loss due to the attacks on 9/11 or in the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, I pray that God will give you comfort as He gave me. May you find that He is the only Tower of strength in which to hide.
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