I know September 11 has already passed in some time zones, but there are still about 45 minutes left of this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks where I am.
On September 11, 2001 I was a junior in high school. I had gym first period and we were swimming so I had no idea what was happening when the attacks happened. Right after gym class I had AP English and we were supposed to take a timed writing test that day. I walked into class and my teacher was somber and he said something like, “I know what’s going on is really hard for some of you right now, but we have this test scheduled so we’re going to take it now anyway.” I was so confused as to what he was talking about since I still didn’t know about the terrorist attacks in New York. At that moment I was more nervous about my writing exam.
Next period I had French and that’s when I finally realized what had happened. The TV was on when I walked into the classroom and it was shocking when I saw the footage and heard the news coverage. We didn’t do anything in class that day except watch the news coverage. I think it was like that in nearly every class after that too. The whole day was so surreal. I remember the days after that too we weren’t allowed to walk outside to go in between buildings for our classes. It was also so strange walking outside later on and not seeing any planes in the sky. You don’t always see planes flying, but you also don’t realize that sometimes they’re just there.
This is an excerpt of what I wrote in my journal on September 14, 2001:
“I feel like I should be more upset or angry about this tragedy, but I’m not. It still seems unreal to me just three days later. I think this is because I don’t feel directly affected by the tragedy. If it happened in Chicago it would be different. It doesn’t hit close to home so to speak in my heart. I’m still devastated about everything that happened and all those thousands of innocent people were killed. But still, I don’t feel much anger towards the terrorists. I don’t know how they could’ve done this, but they did…All I want is peace in the world and unity in the United States.”
Looking back, I think all the events of 9/11 were a little hard for my 16-year-old mind to process. At that age, my biggest concerns were related to school, boys, my horseback riding lessons, and my relationship with God (though sometimes that seemed to come after all those other things). I just remember feeling bad because I didn’t feel as emotional about the 9/11 attacks as other people.
Ten years later though, I do realize the gravity of what happened even more. I feel more pain for the victims and for the brave rescue works and innocent bystanders affected by this tragic event. I think my perspective matured as I matured in age. Still, the terrorists don’t deserve death for their crimes any more than I do for the crimes I’ve committed against God. We all deserve death, but I’m grateful to know that I have found the path to life in Jesus Christ. That’s what these terrorists need–they need Christ. And yet in their need for the power of the Gospel, they teach me something too.
They’re lost people following leaders and fighting for a cause that asks them to risk their lives. Would I be willing to do that even for the cause of Christ? I’d like to think so, but sometimes I’m not so sure. Jesus does ask us to come and die–to die to our fleshly desires and to follow Him fully. If I’m honest with myself, often times I don’t really want to. I’d rather do what I want to do than what God wants me to do. So my prayer is that I would learn how to obey God fully–to be willing to die spiritually but also physically if that’s what He calls me to do for His sake. I’m also reminded to see terrorists the way God sees them. He sees them as His lost children–ones who do not yet know Him and His love. He loves them despite the evil they’re doing and He wants to bring them into His family. Though I may hate and fear what terrorists can do, I pray that I might see them the way God sees them and that I might begin to pray for them just as I would an unsaved friend.
No matter what happens in this world, God is still God. He is still omnipotent and omniscient. He will be glorified in all circumstances. I hope these are things we don’t just remember on the anniversaries of tragedies, but that we allow these truths to seep deep into our souls for the rest of our lives.