Sunday, 11 September 2011

Remembering 9/11

As today marks the 10th anniversary of the chilling attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fatal hijacking of Flight 93, my thoughts like many others have turned to what I was doing when it happened. A day's unfolding etched indelibly on my mind. I wasn't born when either of the Kennedy brothers were assassinated or when John Lennon was shot. I don't remember Elvis dying as I was only five years old. I recall Aryton Senna's fatal crash quite vividly and that of Princess Diana and it's this recollection of 'celebrity' deaths that got me thinking about why we always seem to put an emphasis on remembering where we are when these things happen.

For 9/11, I was at work.  It was early afternoon and along with a colleague I was researching information for our latest publicity leaflet about one of the theatres of the Second World War.  Ironic that my work too centres around mindless global violence.  Engrossed in our reading the door suddenly burst open and our manager told us the World Trade Center had been hit by an aeroplane.  Like the rest of the world the thought of such a terrible accident happening shocked us and our thoughts immediately turned to the people in the building.  My later thoughts focusing on those poor souls in the aeroplanes didn't surface until quite some time later.

The building where I work has a top floor that is a social area.  We have a lounge area and TV and as the events unfolded, more and more colleagues came to watch the news.  As we all started to take in the possibility it was a terrorist attack and the first mumblings of Al Queda were mentioned, it was then with a chill running through me and a nausea in the pit of my stomach I saw that second plane hurtle through the air.  It seemed at first it would miss the building, but then that sickening turn and angle to deliberately impact the building - that's what stood out.  Even now, watching that plane fly in, I want to put my hand into the screen, wrap it around the plane and pull it out of the air so it doesn't crash. 

Nobody spoke, nobody gasped.  Some stared at the screen, some stared at the floor, some just stared at each other - total disbelief knowing that at that very moment, whilst we were standing safe in our workplace we were watching people die - people, who just like us had turned up for an ordinary day at work.  They weren't celebrities, world leaders or royalty.  Just men and women going about their business.  We saw bodies falling, people blown from the building by the blast, people running through the street in the huge cloud of dust, running for their lives - how many people succumbed to the suffocation of that blast one can only imagine.  I remember vividly the telephone call released of a man on the line to the fire department begging the firemen to find him as the room around him billowed with black smoke, then his scream .. the call abruptly ending because at that point, the building collapsed.

I'd like to think that things in this world will get better.  But globally I know they won't.  When the world cries out for hope and peace, my thoughts are that these words are futile, unless you have the certainty of believing there will come a day when there will be peace, when Jesus returns to the earth to restore His kingdom to that he intended when Garden of Eden was first created.  We can question why God allows these evil acts to happen and we can call on Him to intervene, but our expectation of Him just stepping in has to be realistic that if He is to step in, just where would we have Him stand?  Do we ask Him to wipe out all the terrorists currently plotting and scheming to commit atrocious acts, or do we go one step back in the chain and ask Him to take out all the people indoctrinating these men and women to become terrorists?  Do we then ask God to take out their children too, for fear they may become like their parents, and then the neighbours, as they must have been exposed to some kind of dangerous thinking along the way?  How do we categorise evil?  Surely anything that has an intention to harm another is a form of evil?  Do we ask God to take out house burglars - their actions are deliberate and wrong - and harmful to others?  Do we ask God to take out our own children as they fight with each other and then lie to get themselves out of trouble and lay the blame on each other?  Do we ask God to take out our spouses as they insult us during arguments and refuse to take any blame for their actions?  Either way we look at it, we as humans are harming each other every day, even the people we love and who claim to love us - should extremism be the only reason we call upon God to intervene?

So, whilst we lament a world full of scorn, terror and sorrow, we also rejoice and find comfort in God, who does care.  God, who has given us comfort that although these things will happen, His plan is righteous, just and perfect.  I'm yet to understand just how this all fits together, but I have faith that one day, when I stand before Him, I'll understand why men committed that act on that dreadful day ten years ago.

But until that day, my thoughts return to those poor people, some of whom probably just for a fleeting few seconds saw the planes head towards their office windows.  The passengers who knew seconds before, they were going to die. People in the lower floors hearing the deafening crash of the building above them collapsing and knowing they'd never make it out alive.  The 'jumpers'.  Families watching in horror as they knew their loved ones had gone - wives and husbands receiving mobile phone calls to say goodbye. Women carrying unborn children who would never meet their Daddy, toddlers and schoolchildren left at schools waiting for their Mummies to come pick them up, but never did.  Relatives waiting at airports for planes that never landed.

We must never give up on God.  We must never give up on each other.  With prayer and forgiveness we have the power to make some parts of the world a better place.  The part of the world where we live, where we interact daily.  We have the power to love the people around us, not to let bad feeling fester - to share in joys and heartbreaks and to support each other when in need.  Let's remember not to let 9/11 hold us back.  Let's look forward to a day when evil WILL be conquered.

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