Where were you 20 years ago? Most of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing that Tuesday morning when terrorists flew planes into the twin towers, the Pentagon, and an open field in Pennsylvania.
In May of that year, I had left ministry and had taken a short-term position while I figured out what direction my career might take. My birthday passed a couple days prior to that fateful day, which caused me to be even more focused on a career move, as I wasn’t getting any younger! Unlike most mornings when Christian tunes played on the radio, my morning commute was a prayer time that day. No radio, no noise, no news. It seemed eerily quiet and traffic on I-17 seemed less hectic than usual. I was thanking the Lord for providing some calm as He and I had a chat about my future!
It wasn’t until I walked into our office that I realized the calm I experienced during my commute was actually the result of the shock caused by that morning’s disaster. I immediately joined coworkers huddled around a TV screen set up in our small lobby. Not a single phone rang in our offices that day. The whole nation was glued to TV sets, watching the horrific scenario play out time-after-time-after-time.
Mid-week service at our church was packed the next night, and we filled every conceivable space on our sizable campus Sunday-after-Sunday as people flocked to church. It was a wakeup call! I remember Anne Graham Lotz coming to our church some time later, teaching us the importance of heeding wakeup calls.
Our nation, already beginning to fray at the seams, suddenly came together. There was unity between black and white, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian. As a nation, we were attacked together, we would get through it together, and we would stand together. As a nation, we pledged, “We will never forget!”
Twenty years later, it seems we have forgotten. No longer are we in unity when it comes to America. It seems like fires are stoked every day to burn relationships between black and white, “victims and oppressors,” Jesus followers and non-followers, patriots and non-patriots, Democrats and Republicans and so much more. The unity was short-lived, as we are no longer acting as one nation under God, but as a divided, leaderless society that has lost its way.
Following 9/11, there was a mad dash of young men and women to recruitment offices, determined to defend their country. They served honorably and some gave their lives doing so. Most of today’s military personnel were toddlers when those planes flew into buildings 20 years ago. I dare say they serve America at a time America has forgotten what it is like to be strong and united. As a result, 13 young American heroes lost their lives in Afghanistan a few days ago, and it is feared Afghanistan will very quickly become a terrorist haven and training ground…with sights set once again on America.
What’s happened? What is it that we have forgotten?
Have we forgotten those who flew planes into our buildings and masterminded the plot were Taliban? Have we forgotten that in the barren deserts of Afghanistan are where terrorists train? Have we forgotten that America once asked the Taliban to give up Osama bin Laden and they adamantly said no? Have we forgotten that the Taliban is a mortal enemy of America? Why are we now asking them to help us get our citizens back? Have we forgotten? Are we crazy?
Twenty years is a long time. In fact, 20 birthdays have passed since then and God and I are still chatting about my future! However, that short-term job I took several months before 9/11 has now become my career, so I think that part is settled! But it provides a benchmark to understand that, indeed, 20 years is a long time.
But, is it too long to be expected to remember “trivial” things such as who America’s enemies are and what we need to do to defeat them? Will America will ever stand united again? Is it too long to clearly remember the wakeup call we got on 9/11/2001? Have we hit the snooze button too many times, or will we finally awake from our slumber and remember 9/11?
I pray we remember.