Susan and I were at the Wyckoff YMCA when the first plane hit. She was on the treadmill, I was doing a bench work out. The television stations all broke from the scheduled programming to report the stunning news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. She called me over to watch the developing story. People started to gather around the television sets. For some reason I thought that this had happened before… a small plane clipping the side of the city’s tallest buildings. I guess it was some sort of reference to King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, swatting away planes, tucked away in the recesses of my mind. We all thought: “What a terrible accident; how could a plane miss such a towering structure?” It was, after all, a beautiful day with crystal clear blue skies.
Then…suddenly, as we were watching…an explosion. At first we thought it was a bomb but quickly learned it was a second plane that crashed into the other Twin Tower.
We knew…this was no accident. This was terrorism.
Now everyone in the gym was glued to the televisions. The buildings were burning and engulfed in smoke and flames and we began to realize… the people above the fire had no way to escape. We quickly left the gym and headed home.
As we watched the television we began receiving calls from people in our congregation. Some wanted to go to the church, just to be there and watch from there. A prayer meeting was quickly arranged for that night. Breaking news: The Pentagon had been hit by a plane. How many planes were up there? How many more attacks would there be? I was having trouble grasping what was going on. I needed to get over to the church so I went to take a shower. Moments later Susan came running in to tell me that the the South Tower, the second one that was hit, just collapsed.
9:59 a.m. The South Tower of the World Trade Center disappeared. Completely gone.
I could not fathom it. I could not digest it. My mind could not make sense of it. It was, very literally, unbelievable. The building, in 56 minutes, was gone. And thousands of people along with it. Another news flash: A plane crashes in a field in Pennsylvania. Twenty nine minutes later the North Tower suffers the same fate as The South Tower. My eyes can’t believe what they are seeing. My ears can’t believe what they are hearing. It is surreal. Like an out of body experience. It is unbelievable.
Now, 15 years later, I have the same sensation whenever September 11 rolls around. I have watched the videos hundreds of times. Often I sit through the reading of the names at Ground Zero. I participate in the local 911 services, although this year I will be away and miss for the first time in 13 years. I know it has happened. I know that “life has gone on.” I know that we rebuild and move forward but it is still hard for me to comprehend. In history we have B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D (Anno Domini: “In the year of our Lord”)….or for the non-religious… B.C.E. and C.E. (Before The Common Era and The Common Era).
Now we have a world that is described in terms of “Pre 9/11” and “Post 9/11.”
It is hard for me to digest as I only watched from the safety of my house. For the families, for those who experienced it first hand, for those who were there witnessing it as it unfolded, 9/11 will forever be etched in their minds, their thoughts and their dreams. It will live with them in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine.
September 11, 2001 is our generation’s Pearl Harbor Day. I hope it always stays unbelievable to me. I never want to get to the place where I simply accept it without being deeply moved and profoundly disturbed. Because sin, in all of it’s forms, is destructive and deadly. We should never get use to that. And when we think that Jesus gave His life, willingly, to pay the price for our sin, we should always think, “unbelievable.”
My salutation includes the Jewish word for peace…”Shalom.” My prayer…and my hope…is for peace; for every victim of hatred, assault and abuse. Peace for America. Peace for the world.
What do you think?
How does it make you feel?