I remember where I was on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
No, I wasn’t in New York. I was in my house here in Ibadan, Nigeria. My older siblings had just started a new session at their school, and were on their way home. Galaxy Television used to show some amazing cartoons (Ghostbusters and Godzilla, among others) at around 3pm, and we never missed them. But when we turned on the TV, there were no cartoons that day. Galaxy was showing a live feed from CNN. That red band with the words ‘BREAKING NEWS’ was at the bottom of the screen. Something really bad had just happened in New York City, and thousands of people were running and screaming on screen, with thick clouds of smoke and dirt rising in the background. As horror overtook the globe in those moments, I later got to understand the terrible things that had happened that day. A couple of bad guys –real ones, not like the ones in the movies– had hijacked aeroplanes and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. Another had crashed into the Pentagon, while yet another which had probably been headed for the Capitol or the White House, crashed into a field, thanks to the heroic efforts of the passengers and crew. It would be years before the enormity of it all made sense to me.
Thousands of unsuspecting civilians died that day. The United States was in shock, as it appeared their intelligence community had been blindsided. It was a terrible day for everyone all over the world. It was as though an erstwhile peace had just been destroyed. I can never forget the footage of the second plane crashing into the Tower.
There was grief and terror. There were questions all around. Why? How did this happen? Even here in Nigeria, the talking heads on television all tried to make sense of it all.
The world has changed a lot ever since. The United States, even moreso. The War on Terror took American troops into Afghanistan and later to Iraq, all in an effort to destroy this wave of evil that had just reared its ugly head. More have died, families have been affected. No one has been the same since 9/11.
And the questions lingered. Why? Why did God allow this to happen? Was God punishing America? Had God left them alone?
But God was right there. In the midst of the pain and tragedy, God never left.
He showed his courage and love through the lives of the brave men and women, firefighters and police, who risked life and limb to rescue survivors from the debris. Some even died in this effort.
In the days that followed, it was as if the world slowed down a little, to look at the things that really mattered. Like life … family … hope … and God. People turned to God for answers. The evil one had hoped to rain disaster and tragedy, but God took over and used it as an excuse to draw people to Himself.
You’ve probably heard of the World Trade Centre
Cross. The structures of the towers were supported by these crossbeams, so they were never given any special meaning at that. But, in the midst of the debris of the North Tower, this cross was one of the few remaining structures still found intact. It was like a reminder that in the midst of disaster and tragedy and grief, you’ll still find the Cross! God’s Grace and Mercy, and His Pain too! He weeps with all who grieve, and He comforts them because He’s right there, in it with you.
He never left us. Nor will He.
The popular World Trade Centre cross has since been placed on a pedestal, and was a symbol of comfort to many. It is now one of the exhibits in the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. I would’ve put the picture up here, and as soon as I figure out the photo licensing details, I will. You can look it up on Google if you want.
This is why 9/11 has a new meaning to me now. It is an opportunity for the world to just slow down a bit, and look at what was lost, and at Who was with them through it all. Who IS with us.
I am sad, along with the families of the victims, at all the casualties that resulted from that day. I trust the Lord to give comfort to all who grieve. He is always with us, and will never leave us.
‘God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear…’
PSALM 46:1 and part of verse 2
(this passage of Scripture, and the verses that follow, was read by President Obama at Ground Zero, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11)