September 11th... 17 years later


On September 16, 2001, I was scheduled to bring the morning message to my home congregation in Atlanta. I was scheduled to share long before the events of September 11th occurred, but any preparation I had made was set aside after that day.  I offer to you my words from many years ago as Thoughts to Ponder today. Something to make you think about your motivations then, and now. How did that day affect your view of God and the world around us?

As this week has passed by, there have been a wide variety of emotions running through all of us.  We have all felt shock, pain, fear, anger and I pray, hope.  At first, it was as if this wasn’t really happening.  I heard one comment that said they were waiting to see Bruce Willis come running out of a building as if this was just another “Die Hard” movie.  I was on the phone in my office when someone put a note in front of me saying a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. With no televisions in the office, a few radios were turned on to keep track of the events.  Only one person was able to get logged into CNN.com because of the Internet traffic.  We were somewhat separated from seeing it all first hand.

Those I know…
In calling those that I knew over the course of the day, I talked to a young engineer who works for me in the Washington DC area.  He had driven from his home a few blocks from the Pentagon, right past the soon to be crash site at 6 am that morning.  He was happy to have been out of town that day.  While getting home through the blockades was an interesting event, no one he knows was hurt.  Our office in DC faces the Pentagon.  No one there was hurt either.  The office was evacuated, and people sent home to be with families.  No one was near enough to be a “witness”.

My boss, who travels more than I do was at a training class and didn’t begin to understand what had happened until I talked to him.  My boss immediately wanted to get off the phone, find a pay phone and call his parents to let them know that he was OK.  He is Lebanese and his parents still live in Beirut.

I had another business associate who I have worked with worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  Paul used to be an employee of my company.  I really haven’t known Paul for long, but while I talked to my boss, the name came up.  Paul’s office was in the WTC.  The next day I heard word back that Paul has been in his office when the planes hit but got out safely.  I have not yet spoken with him directly, but I can only imagine his experience of Tuesday.

Since that time, we have been deluged with commentary on what happened.  Television programming became a repeat of the same sights and sounds over and over, almost to the point where we have become numb when we see the image of the airplane flying into the side of the building.  Every time you turn on the TV or radio, the first thing you hear is another commentary on what happened and where do we go from here.  The scary part is that I hear more justice and vengeance than love.

My fear…
What has happened is a horrible event. It is also an opportunity for hope. I am an analytical person, who is not often given over to emotions controlling my actions. For those who know me, you have seen this. I am fearful today. But my fear is not that we will be attacked again tomorrow, and I will be in the middle of it. My fear deals more with how Americans will cope with this event. Some of the things I have seen scare me more than the events themselves.

I have heard of people blaming any Muslim group that they can find.  Spray painting hateful words on the sides of the buildings of worship. Throwing Molotov cocktails at mosques. Threatening innocent people with retribution for a crime they did not commit. I see people being stereotyped based upon their race or beliefs. That scares me.

I see people blaming God for this event. They say that this was God’s will to punish the people of America for the rampant drug use, pornography and a myriad of other sins.  I hear this theology being broadcast on national television. This event was caused by a vengeful punishing God. That really scares me that people have that view of God. However, even from those who are not that vocal, I still feel that people are saying that God did make it happen, even if they don’t get the point where they say this was a punishment to all of America. They believe in a God who controls everything that happens. How they begin to reconcile and event like this I will never know. I assume that they will beat themselves up looking for something to count as the cause for this.

I hear those who say that maybe God is teaching us a lesson. This was done to strengthen our understanding of him or to bring us together. It was his intention to use this evil to bring about good. These thoughts and theologies scare me. They scare me because they do not describe the God that I have come to know. The thoughts do not jive with the philosophy of life that I have adopted.

While I still try to cope, I struggle with the amount of evil that man can create. This event is beyond what can comprehend. I struggle with the damage to the environment that we all take part in, the damage to the lives on individuals that comes from the blame game, the lack of love that we too often demonstrate in our lives. I struggle daily in my life and in watching the world around me, not just this one event

My hope..
My theology is of a loving God that has given mankind a choice. It is of a God that created the world with certain laws of nature. He gave us the freedom to choose right and wrong and the intelligence to make that choice. He will not interfere with that, even though he can. He will lead and guide and strengthen. He will talk to us and tell us the right way, sometimes more clearly than others. I am certain that the God I know is in more pain today than I am, because he knows he has the power to stop it but promised he wouldn’t.

As I come to deal with the events of the past few days, I am reminded of several scriptures which all remind us that God is with us. He is. I can see his leadership in the lives of many of the people shown on television. I see the people who are lined up as volunteers to help look for survivors. I see the gifts of safety gear being donated to help make the rescue workers safe. I see the outpouring of people lining up to give blood. I see people reaching out to the person next them to comfort them and hold them even if for just a while.

I see God’s hand in the events of the past few days; not in the pain, rather in the love that we have shown each other in coming to grips with the evil that has been done.

From where we are now, can we still fulfill our calling to be peacemakers. Can we find a way to move beyond this and make peace? We can and should be out there today doing just that. We should be bringing love and comfort to those in need, those having a hard time finding God in this. We should be working to help bring about the peace in individuals. We should also be visible in protecting those who are innocent; keeping the anger of those around us in check; avoiding judging others for their race or creed. We can work to bring Peace to the community.

I believe that the most fear inducing statements are those that say we are at war. That concept is foreign to me in that have had the luxury of never having to live through one. I struggle with the need for war, for vengeance. I understand the logic and the knowledge that if the government did nothing the people who do not see my God would act on their own. However, I think we should be striving for peace rather than making war. Can we do it? I really don’t see it happening in the near future, but it should be our goal.
 
I long for the opportunity to listen and share. When Joy called me the other night she kept apologizing for taking my time. That is what I have to give; time and love. I hope that we can all provide this same response to those around us. Today as we all have the time and opportunity to share our thoughts on the events of the previous week, I hope that we will keep peace in our prayers. I hope that we will make it a priority to share God’s love.
My prayer today is that you seek peace, love and understanding in your daily walk. May the love of God, strengthen and guide you as you remember then, and look to tomorrow. May Peace be with you.

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