Remembering 9/11

I remember where I was when I heard the news. Having just finished teaching an 8:00 public speaking class, I was standing with other faculty at college coffee when someone said, “I cannot believe it happened.” She shook her head in shock. “What are you talking about?” I asked. That’s when I heard the news about the attacks on our nation as terrorists commandeered jetliners and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City. I quickly walked back to the Communications building, where I could see the news as it unfolded on the plasma screen in the hallway. Students and professors were gathered there, watching the news reporters tell the story and show the footage again and again. The horror we felt as we watched passenger planes explode into the twin towers did not diminish, no matter how many times we saw it. The footage that most horrified me was that of people leaping to their death from the towers, knowing they had no chance as the flames threatened to consume them. I tried to console students around me who were visibly shaken, asking them if there was anything I could do. They told me of friends or relatives who lived in New York and whose parents worked in the buildings that we had just watched collapse on live television. I stood and talked with them and offered my prayer support.
I had another class that day, which I held, but the mood was somber, and the students wanted to talk about the attacks. Some had been trying all day to reach friends or relatives near ground zero, or in Washington, D.C. Some were angry at the perpetrators and those who must have masterminded this heinous plot, and these students spoke of retaliation and revenge. Some were still numb, not sure how to process all that they had seen and heard that day. All of them wanted me to turn the television on, which I did. We watched the scene developing in New York City. It was clear that the heroes of the day were the firefighters, policemen, and paramedics who had rushed into the buildings to try and save lives, only to lose their own when the buildings collapsed.
Public speaking topics that semester were different. Many of the students wanted to talk about the terrorist attacks, about radical Islam and Osama bin Laden, about the people who were killed on the planes, towers, or in the Pentagon. They wanted to talk about Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93. He kept that plane from becoming a weapon of mass destruction by galvanizing the courage of the other passengers and rushing the cockpit of the plane. The plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field, killing everyone aboard, but it is believed the intended target was the Capitol building or even the White House.
I also remember that there was little or no talk that semester in my classroom about moral relativism. Not one student said, “Well, what the terrorists did may seem wrong to us, but we cannot judge them. There is no absolute right or wrong, after all.” No, that nonsense ceased as the students saw the power of evil at work in the terrorist attack. Some may have understood the truth of God’s Word, “that the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”
Maybe a few even saw that our only hope is found in God and “that we may know Him who is (the) true God and eternal life.”
That is still my prayer, 10 years later.

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