September 11, 2001. It was such a pivotal time in history, especially for my generation. I was 23 when the towers fell. I remember it being the moment we no longer felt isolated and safe in America. The bad news had mostly happened overseas. Our wars were fought across a big ocean. But on 9/11, the enemy pierced that bubble and attacked us at the heart of our financial district and our military's national command center.
I remember reading, over and over again, Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though themountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
This word from God gave me great comfort in the days after September 11, reminding me that when our military superiority, our system of government and our way of life come crashing down, God is still God and still on his throne. It began a journey of seeking to strengthen my theology, forcing me to wrestle with the big questions of God's character.
In light of the fragility of life that the anniversary of 9/11 urges us to reflect upon, I think we should remember this monumental event in a few ways:
- We should remind ourselves of our vulnerability and frailty, even as Americans. It's easy to get proud as Americans. We live as privileged and prosperous as any civilization in history. We often forget about our wealth as we angle for more and complain about things we don't have. We also need to be reminded (as we were on 9/11) that we're not as invincible and great as we think we are. Every anniversary of 9/11 calls for this humble reflection.
- We should pause to pray for the families who lost loved ones on that fateful day. Watching the towers fall on the television screen from the safety of my home in Chicago filled me with sorrow and shock. I can't imagine how the lives of so many ordinary people were forever disrupted. There are children who grew up without fathers and mothers. There are spouses with an empty spot in their beds. There are employees and employers who will be missed. Let's pause and pray for them.
- We should work to promote the kind of unity we experienced on 9/11. I'll never forget the powerful image of the Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol building singing in unison, “God Bless America.” I remember thinking that, in the moment, I had no ill-will toward politicians I despised. There were no Republicans or Democrats—only Americans. I know that partisanship is essential to our democracy, the free flow of ideas. In many ways, the enemies were trying to attack our ability to engage in this process. Still, I hope that we put aside our partisanship and feelings for the President and Congress and remember that we are all Americans. Christians should take the lead in this, demonstrating to the world that, ultimately, we have an unseen, unshakable, untainted government resting on the shoulders of the King of kings.