It’s been 14 years since I began my senior year of high school, and it’s also been 14 years since one of the most traumatic national events in my lifetime – September 11, 2001.
I still remember that day very well. I was in the locker commons laughing and talking with friends when we saw the coverage on the TV of the first plane crashing into the Twin Towers. It was a surreal moment, and I don’t think I really understood what the repercussions of the terrorist attacks truly were. Looking back I realize that I had such a limited view on the world and so much still to learn.
It’s been 14 years since I had the privilege of going to New York City and serving only weeks after the tragedy. I was there to share hope with the hopeless and joy with the depressed and strength with the weak. What a learning experience and a defining time in my life.
I still remember the somber feeling being at Ground Zero overlooking the hole of dirt and ashes where two prominent buildings were no longer standing. I still remember passing by the fire stations and seeing the array of flowers and cards followed by the pictures of firefighters who gave their lives trying to save others. It was breathtaking and gut wrenching.
Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote shortly after being in New York that was published in the Anoka County Union. It will bring to light some of the emotion that I saw and felt while there just after the attack:
“As I got off the subway at Ground Zero, a distinct stench from the ruins overwhelmed me. This smell I will never forget as well as the faces of many. The expressions on the policemen’s and the firefighters’ faces will forever be imprinted in my mind. The usually busy and loud city is silent at Ground Zero and full of melancholy. Everyone just stares in awe at the rubble where the two tallest World Trade Center buildings once stood. The dust-covered walls of nearby buildings are blanketed with poems and messages dedicated to loved ones who lost their lives in the recent tragedy. The thousands of posters with piercing images of missing loved ones only made me realize even more the reality of the tragedy.
“I noticed in many cases a mask initially covers the pain. But as I started up conversations with people and showed sincerity, compassion and understanding, that mask covering their emotions lifted, and they longed to have their stories heard and their hearts consoled …
“So here we are in Anoka, where the events of Sept. 11 seem distant in space and time from our everyday lives. We can’t fully comprehend the discomfort and longing they have for everything to be the same as it once was, but being there, I was able to grasp how much people just want to have someone listen to them. They want someone to offer hope for their grief, anger, depression and fear. Hope that there is a God who knows their pain. Hope that there is a God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.
“You’ve heard the Sept. 11 story of New York on television. What I saw was the story within that story, a story of hope instead of fear.”
In the midst of the tragedy, we still serve a big God who flooded the streets with love and hope. We came together to help each other out and relied on each other to get through the pain.
Those who sacrificed their lives protecting others they didn’t even know is symbolic of Jesus sacrificing His life to save me – at that time a stranger to Him. There’s a message of hope in the midst of tragedy. I only wish as a nation we could get back to that place where we step up and take care of each other. More tragedies will come – that’s life – but if we don’t figure out how to work together and unite now, then the next tragedy may not have hope attached to it, and our nation may not have the ability to recover. Division is a tool of the devil to keep us from a stronger purpose. We cannot allow him to have a stronghold on our lives.
Today, remember the brave who went before you and sacrificed for those they didn’t even know. Today, be thankful for the small challenges because they make us stronger. Today, step out in faith and serve someone you don’t know. In turn, you will feel blessed and full of hope for the future. Together we are strong. Together there is greatness ahead. The Twin Towers may have fallen, but they will never go forgotten.
Walking in Love,