Today is a day to remember the day in 2001, when America’s destiny was changed forever. It was not chosen, nor desired by us to be this way, and yet, it was meant to be. Someone once said to me, “I don’t know why you seem to think I am involved in this epic battle of good and evil” upon hearing me state in a prophetic manner, what was transpiring a little over a year ago in Afghanistan. He is a Navy SEAL (now retired), and I was trying to show him what I felt God had shown me; that just being there, just walking as he was, every day, just his mere presence, and that of his team, was transforming and shifting nations. I explained that we are ALL really, in an epic battle of good and evil, on this earth. It is a place of turmoil, conflict, and darkness–as we witnessed as the Twin Towers collapsed on that beautiful Fall day in September, 2001. We all looked evil square in the face that day, and realized that it had come to our own backyard, in a way we had never seen before.
In the days to follow, we would search our hearts and our minds, for answers, and for hope, faith, and strength. We would question almost everything, as we tried to grasp the evil in our homeland, and how it came to our shores, and why God allowed it. People flocked to churches, in an effort to understand why this happened, and to try and overcome the fear gnawing at them in their guts. Life would never be the same, it seemed. For some, it truly has NEVER been the same. Lives were lost and changed forever, that day. Boys and girls were transformed, that day, to become heroes in future wars. Men were transformed into pillars of strength they had never exhibited prior to that day, and yet also shed tears they never dreamed they would feel, or reveal publicly, until that day, and the days to come. We were unified in our outrage, and our horror, in response to the images we witnessed, that day. We became resolved in our will to rise up against the evil which had come to America.
For some, their own lives were lost, heroically and tragically. The difference between life and death, for some, was a split second, an inch, a breath, an act of another, or even, a decision. Others seemed destined to live, against all odds, overcoming monumental obstacles, miraculously. People, described as angels, appeared out of nowhere to assist, and to save. Dogs led owners to safety. There were countless stories of triumph and tragedy, that day. Illusions were shattered, and plans were formed, that day.
Upon learning who the face of evil belonged to, in human form, we struggled to understand why this occurred and how such hatred and evil could manifest as it did, that day. It’s one thing to know there is someone, somewhere, who hates you. It’s quite another to see its face, and to see what it is capable of, and how it can change everything within just a few hours’ time. Destinies were destroyed, that day. Dreams were shattered and confidence was shaken. After the horror of the images we witnessed, and the realization of how many lives–nearly 3,000 that day alone– were lost, other concerns crept in such as, will this happen again? How will we ever feel safe again? Will business continue? Has everything changed forever?
It is almost difficult at times to recall now, thirteen years later, the sense of complete powerlessness we felt moments after the Twin Towers collapsed. Knowing that human beings were disintegrated in that enormous cloud of dust, which spread over Manhattan, was horrifying and devastating. Our minds were occupied with thoughts of how those in the planes must have felt, upon realizing what was about to happen to them.
As the events unfolded, we learned that one group of people had enough information and enough resolve to fight back, and to stop one plan the enemy intended for our nation that day. Although they paid with their lives, they thwarted the plan intended for the plane they occupied. “Let’s roll” was their battle cry. We will never know exactly how it all went down on the plane, but we do know that what they did was the beginning of our healing, and the seed which grew into our hope. Learning of how so many brave souls fought that day, for themselves, and for others, in the buildings, in the hospitals, on board flight 93, and throughout the city of New York and the surrounding area, gave us a glimpse of what we knew to be the American way of life. Above all, Americans fight. We fight for freedom, independence, justice, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It IS who we are. We know no other way of existing. Many of us place our trust, and our faith, in a higher power, because we know we would not exist at all or have the fortune of being in this place, without one. We make no apologies, nor should we, for who we are.
Upon learning how some of us were not given time to process all of this; those who were on the front line, sent to respond and to rescue immediately, we felt a new sense of outrage and despair knowing many gave their lives, and others would be transformed forever from what they endured, that day. It did not defeat us. It strengthened us to see their strength and their resolve. It made us examine ourselves, to see if we too had that courage inside ourselves, if we had been in their place. It was something to strive for and admire for most of us who fall short. Slowly, we were rising out of the ashes, collectively, as a nation, from that massive cloud over Manhattan which now represented our battle. Leaders emerged, that day. Identities were formed, that day. History changed forever, that day.
President George W. Bush made several speeches, and was eventually criticized for virtually every word he uttered, and every action he took, by someone or another, in the days and years ahead. The Secret Service has a name for each President. His was Trailblazer, once he took office. That day, as he was flown from an elementary school in Florida, first to Louisiana to Barksdale Air Force Base, and later to Nebraska to a high security bunker, he said to Dick Cheney, who was in a bunker underneath the White House, “It’s the faceless coward that attacks”. In his first address to the nation following the attacks, the President stated, “The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will show the world that we will pass this test. God bless”. It was simple, to the point, and clear. We were not defeated–far from it. That day, would not destroy us, nor would it deter us. This was reflected in his own actions and his own choices. He chose to return to Washington to resume leadership. The Wall Street Journal later said that decision revealed a President who “could not be frightened away for long, if at all”. The next day, in comments he made with his security team, Bush said, “This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail”. Those words defined exactly what we were, and are, facing. In the book, The Faith of George W. Bush, Stephen Mansfield wrote that Winston Churchill once described the battle before the British people, not as a conflict between England and Germany, but as a war between “idolatrous paganism” and “the Christian nations”, and that in Bush’s statement he similarly defined the conflict in moral terms, and thus, elevated it, as Churchill did.
It was on September 14, 2001, that Bush gave a speech at the National Cathedral during a memorial service and said, ” To the children and parents and spouses and families and friends of the lost, we offer the deepest sympathy of the nation. And I assure you, you are not alone. Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing. Our purpose as a nation is firm, yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there’s a searching and an honesty.”
Over those days that followed September 11, 2001, we all searched for healing, and for hope, amid the ashes and ruins of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, and amid the wreckage in the field in Pennsylvania. It was not easy to reconcile the reality with Jesus and God, who love and protect us, as we are taught from Sunday School on, throughout our lives. We had to dig deeper to understand, and to move forward, and to continue with our lives, pretending to be the same, and yet never exactly the same. We had to learn what God meant, when He sent His people to war, and what He meant when He said, “Thou shalt not murder”, a commandment often misrepresented from the original Hebrew word, and interpreted as “kill” rather than its actual definition of “murder”. God did not ever say that we would not have suffering or trials. President Bush said at the memorial service, “America is a nation full of good fortune, with so much to be grateful for, but we are not spared from suffering. In every generation, the world has produced enemies of human freedom. They have attacked America because we are freedom’s home and defender, and the commitment of our fathers is now the calling of our time.”
The calling of our time resonated with many, on that day. The wars that ensued, the fight for freedom, all were rooted in that day, mostly, as the images were forever etched in our memories. Brave soldiers were sent to battle, and are still being sent today. They know their purpose and they know what they are fighting for, well. The SEAL I was speaking to, knew his assignment well, and carried it out in honor, leading his team to victory in Afghanistan, as he had in other places before. He knew his purpose, as so many of those who served that day on 9/11, and afterward. on foreign shores, knew. Some of them returned home. Others met their deaths on foreign soil. Our hearts grieve for the ones who did not return, as well as those we lost on that day, thirteen years ago. Our hearts ache for those who returned broken, and injured, and we must never forsake them, but rather honor them for their sacrifice. Our freedom exacted a price–one which may never be repaid. The conclusion of Bush’s speech was: ” As we’ve been assured, neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth can separate us from God’s love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country. God bless America. “
May God continue to bless America, and may we always remember that He reigns over us. Our politicians will never please all of us. History and hindsight provide a clear view of all things, and criticism abounds as well as blame, and it always will. Today, many feel we have forgotten some of the resolve we had thirteen years ago today, and in the days and weeks that followed the horrendous events of 9/11. In November of 2001, Franklin Graham, son of the man many consider to be our nation’s most influential spiritual leader, Billy Graham, stated to an interviewer that Islam is “wicked, violent and not of the same god” and that “I don’t believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion. When you read the Quran and you read the verses from the Quran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim. It wasn’t Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn’t Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith.” Graham further defended his views in a piece written in the Wall Street Journal: “I do not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith–including Christianity. I agree with President Bush that as a country we are at war with terrorists, not with Islam. But as a minister, not a politician, I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching”.
Truth, is not always well received by all, but it is still, truth. Those who seek to destroy us are still out there, and always will be. We still don’t understand why they wish to annihilate us, even though we know these truths about their beliefs, and we see what the extremists do. We must always remain vigilant. We must always protect and preserve what we have fought for, from the beginning in our nation’s roots. We must defend our culture. The war against us did not end with Osama bin Laden’s death. The war against Israel and God’s people will never end, on this earth. America is the last bastion of freedom, the ultimate defender of freedom, and we must never turn our backs on Israel, or on our way of life, in America. We owe no one an apology for who we are. Even if our enemies are within our own borders, we must fight to preserve what our enemy sought to destroy on that day in 2001. The only easy day was yesterday.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-3, 7