Where Were You On 9/11?

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Where Were You On 9/11?

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Where were you on 9/11 when America was attacked by terrorists? What ran through your mind as you watched the unfolding tragedy?

Every generation has its defining moments. For the World War II generation, it was the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. For another it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  In our present time it was the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that plunged the nation into a global war on terror. Nearly every adult remembers where they were when they heard the electrifying news of the attacks. 9/11 has defined more than a decade of American experience. Every year on its anniversary memorials are conducted, the dead are remembered and the country takes note of what that event has meant.

This week will mark the tenth anniversary and for several days the media has been running commemoratives of the event.

I well remember the day. Like millions of others I could not believe what I saw on the television screen. The collapse of the twin towers of The World Trade Center.  The gaping hole left in the walls of the Pentagon in Washington. And the remains of United Flight 93 in the Pennsylvania field where it crashed—a moving testimony to the brave passengers who prevented the terrorists from killing more innocent people. It was a surreal day that defied belief even as I watched it unfold.

In the aftermath, most of the world came together for one brief shining moment. World leaders pledged their support to track down and find the leaders of the attack. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, was among the first to call President Bush.

Americans from across the nation rallied to New York with support ranging from condolences and prayers to technical support to comb the wreckage of the Trade Center looking for any survivors. New York has not often been a target of sympathy–but on that day its citizens were embraced by all Americans.

On the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, Senators and Congressmen stood that night and sang together “God Bless America.”  On that day partisan politics took a back seat to the suffering of the nation.

A few days after the attack a prayer service was held in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  The nation’s leadership, both political and military, prayed and sang in remembrance.  You could see on the faces of the soldiers the plans for the attacks that would come on the enemy. Prayers were offered by every major denomination—including Islam.

I watched the service on television. I listened carefully. I was looking for something very important, what I knew would be the real key to the whole national drama we were experiencing. I listened to hear a call to repentance. A clear call for the nation to admit its shortcomings—its moral, ethical and spiritual sins. I listened for a defining call to turn, to use this national calamity as a wake up call and cry out to the God of Abraham for forgiveness. I listened for a call for righteousness to run down “like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).

I listened, but it did not come.  There were words of comfort but no clear clarion call for repentance. Only one religious leader used the word and called for a changing of our ways. But it was only a passing reference—nothing more.

Here was a moment in history—an opportunity for a people to fall on their knees to the God of heaven and seek His divine guidance and deliverance.  But it did not happen.  Oh, there was a brief resurgence of religious observance. Church attendance went up in the weeks following 9/11. But it just as quickly went back to the same historically-low levels as before the event–and has continued about the same to this day.

We did not learn the lesson God wants us to learn from this event.  The singular lesson is repentance–a turning from habits and and ways of life that have led to the large problems facing the United States.

This week will see a lot of looking back at this horrendous event. But it is time for the country to look forward. Lessons can be learned and future catastrophe averted. But it is up to you to act. We'll discuss this further this week.