Sixteen years ago I was taking advantage of the college money I’d earned through my military service. The awkwardness of being a married, father of three, and full time minister going back to school had faded, and I had begun to enjoy my classes, especially the class I had on this morning all those years ago.
At this very time (8:30am), sixteen years ago, I was sitting in my Introduction to Business class on a beautiful September day. I mean, the day was absolutely gorgeous. Clear blue skies. Fresh air, cool and crisp. When I left the house that morning I’d kissed and squeezed my wife, and gave a big hug to our three little boys who were six, four, and one.
During our first break, sometime just after 9am, I was the first person to the break room, and on the TV I saw images of what I initially thought was the preview for an upcoming movie. Quickly I realized that the images were live. Right away I understood that this was no accident. One tower struck by a jet could be accidental. But two? We were under attack.
Returning to the class I asked our instructor if she was aware of the situation. She was not, but turned on the TV in our classroom. For some while we all sat transfixed by the horror being beamed to our classroom from the New York city streets. An attempt to return to class as normal was made, but normal could not be found. Not on this day.
Following the class I did not go to the church office where I was on staff. That was the usual routine, but this day was unusual. Nothing about it was routine any longer. Instead of going to the church office I went back home. I really squeezed and hugged my precious little boys. I kissed and held my wife as if we hadn’t seen each other in weeks. Together we sat transfixed to the TV, unable to pull ourselves away from the tragic scenes it displayed.
There is no way that I will ever forget that day. Sixteen years later, and the snapshots of those events are still clear in my memory. The anniversary of 9-11 always brings with it the call to “Never Forget.” I agree with that completely. Let us never forget that family and friends are precious. So let’s be patient, kind, and loving, never taking for granted that we’ll have more time together.
Let us never forget that in this world there will be trouble. Utopia does not exist. Looking for it here is foolishness. We should strive, as much as possible, to live peaceably with all men. Still, there are some who will never be reasonable. Such people will only be brought to peace through strength. Violent action that suppresses evil behavior is necessary. I am thankful for and utterly respect the men and women who run towards danger to rescue the wounded, and those who take the fight to the evil doers. Those men and women are worthy of our support and honor.
Most importantly, let us never forget that this life is short. Death visits us all, whether it comes in a tragic terrorist attack, or if we live to a ripe old age and die comfortably surrounded by our family. Our souls, however, will live somewhere forever. Therefore, let us never forget the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)