A decade after September 11, 2001, you can’t help but recall where you were when you learned of the attack against our nation on that tragically fateful day. It’s one of those dates horribly etched into the nations, and even the worlds, consciousness. It is a trauma that cannot be erased with time. On that day, our finance, military, and government centers were attacked simultaneously.
Where were you? We were home preparing for work. One of us turned on the television to see a live feed of one of the World Trade Center towers, smoking, impaled by an airplane bomb. We stared transfixed as the rest of the attack unfolded, watching in disbelief as the second jet plane crashed into the second tower.
We prayed the people could escape the inferno, but we couldn’t imagine either structure would actually fall. The first tower started crumbling, the intense heat of burning jet fuel causing the steel girders to fail. The building crashed down, down, one floor upon another, pulverizing every material object, causing a cloud of dust to roll over the area, the other followed suit. When the dust cloud subsided, it seemed unbelievable that the buildings—each stood more than a quarter-of-a-mile high—had been compacted into a 50-foot rubble pile. Then, the attack on the Pentagon and the foiled attack on the Capitol further traumatized our nation.
Where were you on that September day?
The song “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?” was written just a few weeks after 9/11. One of its lines asks, “Were you teaching a class full of innocent children or driving down some cold interstate?” The song debuted on November 7 on the annual County Music Association (CMA) awards show. Alan Jackson later said he believed God wrote the song, using him. In addition to asking where we were, the song explores the varied reactions of Americans that day. “Did you dust off your Bible? Did you go out and buy a gun? Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers? Did you stand in line and give your own blood?”
The Friday after the attacks, Michael met with some of our town’s residents, mostly strangers, who gathered to pray. He held the hand of the United Parcel Service (UPS) man as they bowed their heads in prayer for our country, the families of those murdered in the attack and those that were still trapped in the rubble.
That day, seeking solace, I, Michelle, wandered in my flowerbed, where one last red rose of summer bloomed. Our small neighborhood of duplexes was on a circular drive. I looked across the way to see a woman sitting outside. She was covered from head to toe in Muslim dress. She was new to me, although I had seen Middle Eastern men there. I felt compassion for one who now might be considered the enemy. I plucked the rose and walked down the asphalt drive, praying it would help her. She seemed perplexed but pleased when I handed her the bloom. Later, as I learned of the radical teachings of extremist Muslims, about sleeper cells in different parts of the country, I realized she or her family truly could be the enemy. If so, my gesture held even more meaning.
Where were we as a nation?
We all remember where we were individually, but what about us as a nation? Until that morning, didn’t we feel secure in our power? The United States of America seemed an unstoppable force, an invincible power to most of its citizens and the rest of the world. A small minority of us has been emotionally and spiritually prepared for events like this. We know that unless we repent, our country is prophesied to fall. Contrast this with most Americans who, if they thought of it at all, probably expected to see each generation more prosperous than the last, secure in our borders and blessed with the freedoms ensured by our Constitution. Indeed, didn’t we believe it was the best place on Earth to live?
Did we as a nation dust off our Bibles as Mr. Jackson’s song asks? Did we devote ourselves anew to a life of faith, hope, and love, as his lyrics advise? We were forced to face our vulnerability in a way we had never before. The reality that our borders are vulnerable to the enemy remains. We have traded some individual freedoms for protection from that enemy, but have we as a people changed for the better? Did we start looking to the Bible and God’s law as our guide?
Our nation’s wake-up call to repentance
Some predicted 9/11 would be the start of World War III. After 10 years, we have yet to experience the first nuclear bomb or escalation of terrorist attacks. But that being said, 9/11 ought to have been a strong wake-up call for our nation. For a short time after the dust settled at Ground Zero, our nation did appear to be turning to God and the Bible. A January 7, 2002, USA Todayarticle stated that by some estimates, church attendance increased by 25 percent after the attacks. A Gallup poll indicated the percentage of Americans who stated religion was “very important” to them increased from 57 percent in May 2001 to 64 percent after the attacks. It also noted church attendance and religious interest decreased shortly after the attack.
In Luke 13:4-5, Jesus talks about another tower falling in his day and the need for a nation’s repentance, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Just as the people of Siloam, the victims of 9/11 were no worse than the rest of the population. But our nation does have much for which we are accountable.
Drawing attention to our own sins is not meant to excuse the terrorists in the least or to diminish the horrible evil of the terrorists and their backers in committing this atrocity. But God could have prevented the attacks. We must ask ourselves, “Why did God allow this tragedy to happen?” We can learn part of the answer by examining ourselves to see our own sins. The people of our nation have been increasingly turning their backs on God. As one example, consider the more than 40,000,000 innocent deaths of unborn babies since Roe v. Wadelegalized abortion.
Was it not true the United States was in dire need of national repentance at the time of 9/11? Our need is greater today. In the ensuing decade, millions more unborn babies have died terrible deaths. The number who died on 9/11 was around 3,000 people—it’s about the number of babies aborted, burnt, and crushed every day in this country? The tragedy of 9/11 provided a window for us to view publicly once what occurs secretly everyday.By our mass breaking of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) through national policy, this nation has a mountain of sin of which to repent. That is just one aspect of our culture that needs to change.
Where are we now?
The national introspection bordering on repentance after 9/11 did not last long. Instead of turning to God, we turned to our military, projecting the armed might of America halfway across the world with “shock and awe.” The words of Mr. Jackson calling for faith, hope, and love were replaced with other songs, songs that looked to our armed forces with pride bordering on arrogance and idolatry.
We did not do as King David admonished in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” And in Psalm 33:16, “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength.”
Partly due to the tremendous cost of these military ventures, our economy has had a serious decline comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s. We have faced the downgrading of our government’s credit rating. Unemployment has not been this high for this long since the Depression. Our lack of financial responsibility and self-discipline have come back to haunt us. Dealing with this pending financial catastrophe will require a national change of heart, one that our nation considered briefly and refused to make after 9/11.
God wanted us to turn to Him in our time of trial. After giving Him lip service, our nation turned to its might and resources. While we have security temporarily, it’s not clear how much longer we can even afford to defend ourselves. Unless we undergo a national repentance, we are destined to experience more serious woes that will make the trauma of 9/11 pale in comparison.
Joel 2 warns of terrible times destined to befall the world if its people continue in their selfish ways. God himself calls for repentance with these words, “’Now, therefore,’ says the LORD, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning’” (Joel 2:12). We must each take heed and act accordingly.
Please pray for your country. And please pray for God to show you His will for your life so you can please God even if the country turns in the wrong direction. As God withdraws His protection from the country as a whole, we as individuals will need God’s protection all the more.
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