I remember like it was yesterday. I know that is a cliché of sorts, but it is a true statement. I remember that moment like it was yesterday.
It is all still very clear in my mind. On September 11, 2001, I was running late for work. Traffic was unexpectedly bad and I was getting frustrated. I was listening to the radio and I remember changing the stations. As soon as I reach the new station I heard someone crying in the background. It was a very odd sound on a morning radio show, so I paused. Then I heard another voice say that an airplane had hit one of the towers and at the moment there was chaos and uncertainty on what was actually happening in New York.
Then it happened. Live on the radio I heard it. The other airplane hit. The shock and heartache in the voices on the other side of my radio was unlike anything I had ever heard before in my young life. I was only 21 at the time. Moments like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy were somber memories in my history books. This was happening now. It wasn’t in a book or a documentary. It was live, and it was unlike anything else our country had ever experienced.
The next moments are a little bit of a blur in the midst of the clarity of my memories. I do remember that I arrived at my place of work and I ran inside. My co-workers humorously thought I was breathless from trying to make in on time, but they immediately saw the look in my eyes. I then simply said to all of them—“We are under attack.”
I write you that story because I have a feeling that those of you who were alive at the moment of the attacks on September 11, 2001 know what I am talking about. You remember as well. You remember where you were and what you were doing. You remember whom you were talking with and how you found out. You remember the rest of the day as you watched the horror unfold on your television screen. Like me, you remember it all. And those images are sketched into your brain for the rest of your life. It was, and will probably stay, the defining moment of our lives as citizens of this country.
I remember a lot about that day. I remember a lot about the following days. Yet, in the midst of the pain and the horror, I also remember the courage and the unity. I remember the love and the compassion to help in the healing. I remember people of different backgrounds and ideologies coming together as we discovered there is more that unites us than divides us. I remember people rushing to donate blood and other needs. I remember the images of the New York Fire Department and Police standing over the rubble, sorting through the ashes in hopes of finding just one more soul who was still alive. I remember churches gathering in prayer for those who were lost and their loved ones.
I remember so much.
That day was unlike any other day….ever. That day was a day that changed the world forever. Yet that day was a reminder that in the midst of our differences and our debates, democracy and freedom are ideas that are so powerful that no attack upon them will kill their spirit. That day was a reminder that in the midst of the sorrow and pain, we have the ability to be immensely compassionate and selfless. Once again, that day was a reminder that what unites us is by far stronger than what divides us.
This Sunday is the fifteenth anniversary of that day. We will have a moment of reflection and prayer at each service, and we will do our best in spirit to remember it all. Most importantly, I hope we remember that in moments like September 11th God has promised that he never forgets or abandons us in our time of need. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Romans when he said, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Let us remember and never forget.