I’ve been watching a few of the early anniversary news reports about 9/11. Each time I hear them, I am impressed in different ways. It has affected me differently this year on the ten year anniversary.
This year I have realized that, but for God’s protection that day, our family would be missing three of our six grandchildren. I don’t know why it hasn’t hit me in this way before, but today, as I was looking at the pictures of their first days of school last week, I realized that their presence here might not have even happened. Their story could have been very different with a few small tweaks of the circumstances that day!
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
Ten years ago, here in Texas, my phone rang. My daughter, who was living in New York City while finishing her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, along with her husband, who worked for Goldman Sachs (six blocks from the Twin Towers) was calling to calmly ask if I was watching the TV. Actually, I was just waking up. She told me that her husband, Bryan had been at work and seen an airplane fly into one of the Twin Towers that morning.
I asked, “Was it a small plane?”
“No, it was a commercial airline.” she replied.
“Is the weather bad there?” was my next question. It’s not like that was a building they wouldn’t be able to see under normal circumstances!
“No,” was her next reply. “It is a beautiful, clear day. There isn’t a cloud in the sky!” I was wide awake now and running down the hall to get the TV turned on!
“Was it intentional?” My heart was beating faster. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was something bad, really bad. My pilot brother had told me about this kind of thing that could happen some day.
“A second plane has now hit the building.” Oh no, It was intentional!
“Is it terrorists? Is Bryan ok?”
“Yes, he was working on the phone in a conference room and saw the first plane hit the building. He realized it was on purpose. There was no doubt. He called me to tell me he was ok and called his parents in Washington (state) to tell them he was ok.”
As you can imagine, the TV was on for most of the next few days. I have this thing that tells me that if I have the up-to-date information, that somehow everything will be ok. It isn’t true. Especially on these 24 hour news stations that are rife with so much hearsay information during a shocking tragedy like 9/11.
Making calls to New York City during those days was impossible. We would hear news…such as that the Twin Towers had collapsed. There was no way to confirm rumors we were hearing from them. We had to wait for them to call us. They weren’t hearing all the rumors we were.
We couldn’t confirm that Bryan, who we knew was walking the ten mile trek toward home, had safely passed that site. Watching the cloud of debris flying in the air on TV wasn’t helpful…was he inhaling all that mess? After a few troubling and prayer-filled hours, we learned that although he was caught in some of the cloud, he had safely gotten out of the area before he was directly affected by the collapse. He had torn up his T-shirt, wet it and wrapped it over his nose and mouth while walking in the middle of the thick air.
MEANWHILE, CHRISTY’S MORNING TURNED FUNKY
Christy, after hearing of the events downtown…and knowing Bryan was safe, had completed getting ready for work and gotten on the bus to her work at the University (uptown..I think! Definitely uptown from the Towers.) During tragedies, denial is powerful, isn’t it? So is routine. That is what gets us through the early hours and days so we can do the things that need to be done!
Of course, when she arrived, she had to turn around and return home because the offices were all closing…everything was closing as was the majority of the transportation! This was a catastrophic event…something our country had never experienced before on this scale!
THERE WAS NO GETTING AROUND IT! THIS WAS A CATASTROPHE!
The only people who minimize it these days are those who either didn’t live through it or who have a political agenda that finds it difficult to acknowledge that feeling we had in those early days. A catastrophic event had happened! Our country had been attacked and this was not an overreaction. No one knew if more attacks were coming…and to other cities. Protecting our citizens was the job of our leaders. They needed to do it with the best information they had at the time.
We can second-guess reactions done then in the comfort of hind sight, but our leaders did not have that luxury on that horrible day, of being low-key in their responses, or even finessed. (I’m not sure how one does that in an emergency, but I do know how great it sounds coming from the mouth of a critic!)
They didn’t have all the information we have now. Often the information they had was incorrect or incomplete! We, the family and friends of people who were living there and close to the events in New York City, Washington, DC and Shanksville, PA were in the same situation. We were asking the questions:
- What is happening?
- Are our loved ones safe?
- What is going to happen to our country?
But I almost forgot, my daughter and her husband were not my only considerations! My brother, who was an American Airlines pilot out of Kennedy International Airport in New York City (where two of the flights were said to have originated), lived in Harrisburg, PA (near the crash of Flight 93).
He had warned me a few years earlier that something like this could easily happen because, he said, “When a person is willing to commit suicide for a cause, they don’t care about hurting innocent people!” When I got off the phone with my daughter, I immediately wondered…where is Steve?
I dialed his number, knowing he wouldn’t answer. He never answered the phone. It always went to voicemail. I would always have to wait for him to call back!
The phone rang. “Hello.” It was music to my ears!
“Where are you?” I asked.
“I’m off today. I’m home.”
“I’m so relieved!” Then I updated him on Christy and Bryan…and he updated me on what he knew!
As I write this, I am writing about the grace God showed our family that day. He protected my daughter and her husband from being killed in the 9/11 tragedy. He protected my brother from being the pilot of one of the planes that went down.
But there are others who have had to tell another story of God’s grace. They have had to tell a story of God’s grace to them in a time of loss. Mine is a happy story. Theirs is not as happy to tell, but is just as good a story. God’s grace is real. It is good. It is enough. In good times and bad. Even in times of catastrophe and loss. God’s grace is still enough!
Please comment about times when you have found God’s grace sufficient…or are challenged to learn how to find it to be enough in your good times or your difficult times. It will encourage our readers…and it will encourage you in the writing!