I had gone to my 8 am Intro to Pysch class that morning…back in my dorm room at UNC-Chapel Hill, I laid on my bed (probably to study) and fell asleep. Then my cell phone rang and everything changed.
I was already dating Neil at the time, and he was the one to tell me that a plane had hit a tower in New York City. It took him a few seconds to convince me that he wasn’t kidding — that we were actually being attacked by terrorists — and I ran down to the lounge to turn on a television. A few other girls came into the lounge and we sat there, in total silence, as we watched the second tower crumble to the ground.
It was surreal. The feeling that everything is totally out of your control — not knowing what might happen next — is terrifying. Immediately after the attacks, everything shut down. How could life continue as usual when no one felt safe? When we had all seen, with our own eyes, how vulnerable we really are?
This was no page out of a history book or a news report from another country…this was our land, our people, our day spinning out of the security we’d all taken for granted.
Everyone in my dorm did what most people across the nation did…we reached out. We called our families and friends. We watched the news, desperate for any information or consolation.
I’m sure everyone remembers the grief and the fear of that day.
But I also remember how girls who didn’t know each other all that well supported a native New Yorker whose parents worked in the Towers as she tried to reach her family. I remember how the entire student body came together in a candle-lit night to pray for the victims and their families. I remember Sept. 12, when Chancellor James Moeser offered a time of reflection to more than 10,000 students, encouraging peace and reconciliation. I remember the awe I felt when the stories of Flight 93 emerged…the pride in those courageous Americans who fought back against the men who would’ve caused even more destruction. I remember going to a Heels to Heaven (a campus choir) rehearsal and gathering in small groups to pray…and, with all that’s within me, I remember the peace that returned to my own heart as I remembered that the world was not out of control, even though it seemed to be.
That’s what I choose to remember when this date comes around again…God is still sovereign. Disasters happen — tragedy tries to crush us — and it’s days like 9/11 that cause us to cry out with that ancient question – why? In this world, full of the chaos that comes from sin, there are these moments where we have to trust in the goodness and power of the God we serve…we have to hold onto our faith when all of our senses tell us that things are falling apart at the seams. He is God on the good days and he is still God on the unfathomable days. He does not change when the world around us does. He is a foundation to count on when it feels like the everything else has fallen away. This isn’t the easiest statement to make or to truly accept, but at some point we will all face disaster, whether it’s personal or a national tragedy like 9/11…and, at some point, we will each face death. And we have to know, when it happens, that our faith is in a God who is more than able to bring us through in victory.
When we face the hard times, that’s when we have to be honest with Him and let Him have our fears and doubts…because He’s promised to be with us through it all…and He can handle our situation, however bleak it appears to us. We’re weak, but He is strong. He brings beauty from ashes, strength from fear, gladness for mourning, everlasting life and freedom for death. This passage from Romans 8 tells us that when we’re the children of God, nothing, absolutely nothing, in our past, present, or future can separate us from His love:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As we look back to this day in our history and think about the broken hearts and families…as the memory of that overwhelming fear surfaces in each of us…I pray that His unshakable love will flow…that the Holy Spirit, who is literally ‘called to one’s side’, will comfort any of us in need of peace.