No one could have foreseen the events that would take place on the morning of September 11, 2001. For most of us, myself included, that day started out the same as any other normal Tuesday morning. People left home and fought horrendous traffic to get to their jobs on time. Parents made sure that their kids got to school. Everything seemed just as it always was…just another day of the same old dull routine. Little did we know that in a few short hours, we were about to discover just how horribly wrong those assumptions were.
I remember that I had stayed up quite late the night before, so I didn’t wake up until late in the afternoon. So unfortunately…or maybe fortunately, depending on your point of view…I slept through the whole thing! When I finally woke up, still not knowing that anything had even happened, I dragged myself out of bed and went to take my blood pressure medication. Then, after taking a few moments to shake off the sleep, I went to call my mother at work. She was the one who told me about the horrible and vicious attack that had taken place that morning.
I was utterly stunned! In fact, I did not believe her at first. I thought that it was some kind of a bad joke, and I was waiting for the punch line. Only the punch line never came. She kept insisting to me that it was no joke. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really remember exactly what I felt at the precise moment that she told me. I was too numb with shock and disbelief to feel anything at all. I think my emotions just completely turned off.
After my mother and I finished our telephone conversation, I hung up the phone and immediately ran to turn on CNN. Then I sat there silently in front of the television as the anchorman confirmed that what my mother had said was true. Indeed, two planes had crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, completely demolishing the buildings. And a third plane had destroyed an entire wing of the pentagon. The Pentagon! The very center of our military! In addition, we later learned that there had been a fourth plane, and that The White House had been the intended target of this plane. However, thanks to the heroic efforts of it’s doomed passengers, who tried to overpower the hijackers, the plane missed it’s intended target and crashed somewhere in the woods of Pennsylvania.
Slowly, over the next few hours, the horrific reality that this had really happened began to penetrate my fog of disbelief. This unspeakable atrocity had actually taken place! And as if that fact alone weren’t bad enough, it had happened right here in my own country…in my homeland!
For all the rest of that day, and late into the night, I remained glued to my television set. As a matter of fact, I remained glued there for the next several days as well. I can’t explain why, but I was absolutely riveted. As morbid as it sounds, I would sit watching news reports until I was so exhausted that I couldn’t see anymore. And at the end of each day, I literally had to force myself to go to bed. I almost felt as if my very life itself depended upon hearing every horrid detail of this tragic happening. As time went on, the anchor people changed, but the story was the same: America was in mourning. And through it all, I watched. Over and over again, I saw the images of those planes crashing into those buildings. I watched as they showed the explosions, the shattering glass, the flying debris, and even the smoke blackened sky. They were all shown in graphic detail, and from every conceivable angle, and I watched.
I saw terrified people…people who knew that they were going to die…throwing themselves off the upper floors in a desperate effort to avoid the flames. This is hard to understand, but I guess the human mind does funny things when it knows that death is coming. I am guessing that this was their way of trying to gain some small measure of control over a hopeless situation. I guess that they must have figured that if they had to die anyway, then at least they were going to decide how it happened; so they jumped rather than sit there waiting to burn to death. I think I would have made the same choice. When an even more gruesome fate is inevitable, that somehow seems more humane…even if only by inches. Of course, all of these assumptions are merely speculation on my part, but this is the only way that my mind can make any semblance of sense out of any of this. But at any rate, those images are now permanently seared into my psyche. I will carry them with me to the grave. I cannot even begin to imagine the unbelievable gut-wrenching terror that those poor souls must have known. I pray that I will never have to experience such terror in my life.
And along with the sights, there were the sounds. First, came the earth-shaking explosions that spelled certain doom for the thousands of people in and around those buildings. Next came the sound of shattering glass. And then there were the horrified screams of the onlookers in the street below. And you could hear the heavy, clunking footsteps of those who tried to run for cover, but were unsure where to find it. Finally, there was the droning chaotic wail of sirens as the police and rescue workers fought their way into the middle of that inferno in a desperate attempt so salvage some small amount of life from the carnage.
As silly as this may sound, as I sat there watching those appalling images, I remember the first words out of my mouth when I saw those planes hit the World Trade Center buildings were these: “Oh my God, it has hit the fan now!” Then, immediately following that, I thought to myself, “I don’t know who the poor imbecile was that did this, but whoever he is, he just made his last mistake!”
Finally, by the wee hours of the next morning, the grim reality had completely sunken in. As the news coverage went on, my feelings of disbelief gave way to a confusing rush of every possible emotion. It was almost as if my spirit did not know quite what to feel. There were so many different emotions to choose from, and all of them were equally strong. For quite some time, I was just completely overwhelmed. I had no idea how to even begin to understand the feelings that I was experiencing. But slowly, as the many emotions began to surface, I attempted to deal with each one of them individually.
First, there was the complete disbelief. My brain simply could not fathom the enormity of what had happened. I could not understand how something so unspeakably awful could happen in this country. After all, this is supposed to be the safest country in the world, right? Well, that statement had just been proven false in the worst possible way!
Then the fear came. If it happened once, it could happen again. And if it did, where and when would these monsters strike again? And how many more innocent souls will lose there lives when they did strike again? Also, there was the fear of going to war. After any such attack, a sane and rational person would have automatically assumed that a war was eminent. I knew that there was no way our country would ever tolerate such a calculated act of brutality. Then I asked myself this question: If there was a war, would we survive it? And if we did, how would it affect our lives? How would our lives change…not only while the war was being fought, but what would the long-term effect be? How would it change the future of our country?
Never in my life have I ever been so full of questions that appeared to have no answers. And I have to be honest with you here. The uncertainty of all of this filled me with an awful sense of dread. I really cannot even describe it. It is one of those feelings that you have to experience to be able to understand it. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do, or how to prepare myself for whatever might be coming. There is, after all, no way to prepare for the unknown.
And later, as the days went by and I watched the continuing coverage, I gradually became more and more angry. Those wretched, evil men! How dare they! I could not believe the gall of those people! They had the colossal nerve to come into our country and try to use the skills that we had taught them against us! And, to make matters even worse, they claim to have committed this horrendous act in the name of religion! News flash, guys; my Bible says that there is only one entity that teaches his followers to kill and destroy; need I say more?
No, this atrocity certainly cannot be blamed on God. He did not cause this to happen. I can say with heartfelt certainty that He was sickened and saddened by these events. However, God allows each of us to have free will. This means that we all have the power to choose whether we will do good or evil, and God cannot be blamed if one of His children makes a choice to do the wrong thing of his or her own free will.
So why didn’t God prevent this, you ask? Again, it has to do with the issue of free will. When God gave us free will, He also promised that He would not interfere with the exercise of that free will in any way; and being a man of His word, He will not break that promise. Therefore, because these events were set in motion as a result of someone’s use of free will, God could not stop it because in order to do so, he would have been forced to break that promise. At least, that’s the way I see it.
To those of you that do not wish to accept that explanation, I can only say that He must have had some reason for allowing it to happen, and even though we may not understand what that reason is, it isn’t for us to question. At moments like these, we simply must have enough faith to trust that He’s God, and He knows what He’s doing. Sometimes, it is not our place to understand such things.
Anyway, I continued to watch the news coverage, and the longer that I watched, the more my suspicions were confirmed. This was not the work of men, but of demons. These men were possessed by demons; demons whose sole purpose was to destroy anything and everything in their path, which they did without a shred of remorse. Being a Christian, I cannot condemn them, in spite of the hatred that I have for their actions. I can only pray that The Lord will have mercy upon every one of those miserable excuses for humanity, and trust that He will render upon them a judgment that is just in His eyes. For He, in His infinite wisdom, is a much more qualified judge of what is just than I could ever hope to be.
The last and most powerful feeling that I carried through those days was an absolutely overwhelming sense of sorrow. Sorrow not only for the victims and their loved ones, but indeed, for an entire nation that was so cruelly robbed of it’s innocence. For me, this was the one emotion that I tried my hardest to suppress, because I knew that if I allowed myself to freely feel it, it would have completely consumed me. It would have swept me away like an ocean tide. I would have drowned in it.
But then, something happened that I did not expect. Right in the midst of my trying to deal with all of these powerful feelings, the news coverage shifted its focus. They began to show the friends and families of the victims, openly weeping as they desperately searched for any information that could be given about their lost loved ones. All of them were praying fervently, hoping against hope that their loved ones may be found alive, and be able to come home to them. My soul wept for those people. And after seeing this heartbreak, my own personal feelings began to seem a bit petty and trivial.
I mean, let’s get real here. First of all, I was thousands of miles away from this devastation. And secondly, I did not have to worry that any of my loved ones may not be coming home that night. My life had not been disrupted or inconvenienced in any way whatsoever. I would still be able to live the same blessed life that I had always led. So all of a sudden, my own feelings of sorrow and anger did not seem quite as important as they once were, because I realized that these poor souls were the ones who would truly have to deal with the enormity of this tragedy. And not only will they have to deal with it now, but it will affect them every single day for the rest of their lives. My heart went out to them; I prayed for them daily, and I still do.
Over the ensuing days and weeks, the events leading up to this fiasco were slowly pieced together. From the beginning, it had been suspected that a Saudi man named Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind who had hatched this diabolical plot. According to the FBI, Bin Laden was a severe Muslim radical with a long history of terrorist activity. And about two weeks into the investigation, the FBI confirmed that their suspicions were correct. Bin Laden was indeed the man who was responsible for this heinous crime.
I don’t know how the rest of America reacted to this news, but for me, it was a big help in my healing process. You see, for me, uncertainty is the most horrible and difficult feeling of all to deal with. Nothing feels worse to me than having to face an unknown enemy. I was scared that we would always and forever be doomed to wonder who had done this awful thing, and why. At least now, I…we…knew for sure who was responsible. We had somebody to blame for our pain.
However, just at the moment when America should have been at its most angry and vengeful, something quite extraordinary happened. We, as a nation, decided to put aside our anger. We became determined to show this monster that his attempt to scare us into submission had failed. We wanted him to see that it was going to take a lot more than this to break us. We were determined to rise above the horror and the pain that he had tried to inflict upon us.
I have never before in my life seen such an unbelievably generous outpouring of kindness as the one that I have witnessed in the wake of this tragedy. People lined up in droves, sometimes waiting for hours to give blood. People opened up their homes to complete strangers who had been left homeless by the devastation. People by the thousands flooded into the affected areas…which by this time were being referred to as “ground zero”…volunteering to help in any way that they could. They were willing to do whatever was asked of them. Acts of astonishing heroism on the part of firefighters and other rescue workers became a daily occurrence. There was a unity among the people of this nation such as we had not seen since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor some sixty years earlier. Suddenly, we were no longer divided by racial or religious barriers, or any other stupid prejudice. Our differences were completely forgotten. We were Americans willing to stand together and fight for the nation that we love.
All across the country, people were eager to show their patriotism. We wanted all of the rescue workers and the other people who were working so hard trying to help us recover to know that the were not going through this horror alone. Patriotic songs could be heard from everyplace, and every time the national anthem was played, whether at a sporting event or elsewhere, the roar of approval and support was deafening. In every large city and small town in America, people were rushing out to buy and hang the American flag. Buying so many of them, in fact, that the stores and manufacturers could not keep up with the demand. Flags had to be back ordered. Many people even flew the flag from their car windows as they drove down the street. Some placed bumper stickers on their cars bearing a picture of the flag, along with the slogan “These Colors Don’t Run.”
As a matter of fact, this attack not only brought our nation together, but it unified many other nations around the world as well. Many other nations offered to stand with The United States, and give whatever support they could. In fact, when our leaders spoke to the United Nations to ask permission to respond to these attacks, members of the UN agreed unanimously that America should take whatever action it deemed necessary. This was the first time in the entire history of that organization that a unanimous agreement between all the members had ever happened.
So you see, Mr. Bin Laden, we Americans do not scare so easily. Your despicable attack has only served to unify us, and to strengthen our collective American spirit. Your attempt to destroy us has been in vain. You expected us to scamper away and hide…to submit. Instead, we rose to the challenge, and we are still doing so. And you, sir, are in for a very rude awakening; for when the people of this nation stand together as one, America is a force to be reckoned with.