This week marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It happened on a Tuesday morning, a Tuesday morning on which I found myself standing on the streets of Washington, DC. It was a day that I will never forget, and like so many others, that day holds a pain that still grips my heart. Will you join me in prayer this week as we stand with the families and friends of the fallen? Let us not forget the courage, compassion and sacrifice of our fellow Americans on that fateful day.
If you have not read my full account of my experience on September 11, 2001, I will be re-posting the story, “Nowhere To Go” tomorrow in honor of those who sacrificed their lives to save so many. I hope you will take a moment to read and remember.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21 – NIV
The day dawned crisp and pleasantly cool. Shimmering rays of golden light danced on the sidewalk below my window.. The sky was a brilliant cornflower blue, the intensity of its color highlighted by the occasional puffy white cloud that gently floated by. It was a beautiful fall day, full of promise and potential.
“Promise and potential., a new day with so many reasons to be grateful, a good day to head home.” Those were my thoughts as I greeted the day. My mood was buoyant as I exited the hotel doorway headed for the Metro train that would transport me to Union Station. In a few hours, I would step off the train in North Carolina, my little family waiting to greet me.
I had no idea how wrong I was. I had no idea what awaited me. Neither did the rest of America.
The men and women who entered the World Trade Center that morning had no idea. The passengers who boarded planes that morning had no idea. The military personnel that reported for duty at the Pentagon had no idea.
No one could have imagined such a thing. It was in concievable. It was unbelievable.
But the terror was real. It really happened.. And I remember it all.
I can still hear the screech of the policeman’s whistle, his uniformed arms waving, urging me forward off the sidewalk and into the clogged street. I can still here the thrum of the idling motors all around me, their progress halted bye the crush of traffic on every thoroughfare in sight. The voices all around me were tense, their tone teetering on the edge of panic,. When I looked up at the federal building across the street from me and saw the black smoke rising up against that pristine blue sky, I felt my stomach clinch in fear. This was really happening. The danger was real. The US Capitol was only a couple of blocks away, the White House only a short walk down the street. And there I was, standing on a street corner across from Union Station, wondering what to do next.
There might be another plane out there, another plane controlled by more hijackers. I knew what had happened in New York City. I could see the smoke from the Pentagon.. I knew that those hijackers could be heading a plane right toward me. There was nowhere to go. There was nowhere to hide.
We were standing on a street corner in a mass of panicked people. All I could do was stand and wonder, ‘ Would this be my last day on this earth? Could this really be happening to me?”
I didn’t know it then, but there were other people who were wondering the same thing. They were sitting in their seats on a plane above Pennsylvania. Hijackers had taken control away from the captain, and they were at the mercy of these terrorists. They could have given up, could have wailed and cried and screamed “Why?” But they didn’t give up. They chose to sacrifice themselves to stop those terrorists from hurting anyone else. They took a stand, not to assure their own safety, but to assure the safety of others. Their bravery saved my life and the lives of countless others as we stood together on that scorching DC sidewalk, waiting and watching and worrying.
20 years…Can it really be that 20 years have passed since that tragic September day? 20 years…Enough time to raise a child to adulthood. 20 years…Enough time to finish a rewarding career. 20 years…Two decades filled with travel and family celebrations, laughter and smiles. 20 years that I have had, and they did not.
For 20 years, I have thought about the brave heroes and heroines of Flight 93. Every time I consider the events of that horrific September day, I am humbled by the courage of those valiant men and women. Because they cared so deeply, they saved the lives of their fellow Americans. Every year, as the anniversary of 9/11 rolls around, I think about their brave sacrifice, but especially this year, because this year marks twenty years, 20 years that they and their families didn’t have, and I did.
My heart is full of admiration and gratitude but it doesn’t seem like enough. I want to say “Thank you,” but the words fall short. Perhaps the only way to really thank them is just to remember. To remember their sacrifice and to honor their memory by doing good. Perhaps the best way to repay such a debt is to pay it forward.
Pay it forward. Do all the good we can while we still can. This reminds me of the timeless admonitions of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” )Romans 12:9-13, NIV). That sounds a lot like paying it forward, doesn’t it?
Paul goes on to direct us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21,NIV). I cannot undo the evil of that horrific day. I cannot take away the heartache or restore the lost years to the families of the fallen. But I can pay forward the good done for me. I can do all the good I can while I still can. In that way, I can honor the memory of the heroes of Flight 93 and so many others. In that way, I can overcome evil with good.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:17-“18 – NIV
O Lord God Almighty, our hearts ache as we remember the horrific events of that tragic September day. We remember those we lost at the hands of evildoers. Our hearts break for their loved ones, for the 20 years that they have trudged on without them, for all the good things of this life that they never had the chance to experience. Lord, comfort the families and friends of the fallen with Your peace that passes all understanding.. O Dear Lord, we thank You for the heroes and heroines of that day, for the lives they saved, for the good they did. They truly overcame evil with good. May we honor their memory by doing the same. In as much as it depends on us, let us live in peace with everyone. Let us share the Hope of Jesus Christ that opens the door to light and life eternal.
In the Holy Name of Jesus Christ, we give thanks and pray for all mankind,