Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9 - 11, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

As I sat today reflecting on the week and its particular demands, tomorrow's date, 9-11, began to surface a combination of memories, musings, and meaning. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when that day's events began spilling forth from the live newscast. My wife had already gone and had arrived at the school where she was teaching at that time. I was getting ready to leave and make some contacts in connection with my mission work, and was standing in the living room, eating a quick bite of breakfast and watching a morning news channel. Suddenly a live feed was shown of the skyline in New York City, and I saw a plane fly into one of the World Trade Center towers, resulting in an explosion of fire and smoke that seemed to radiate from all sides of the structure. It was a shock to see it live, and though I was eager to find out what happened, I was also eager to be away, making a determined mental note to pray for the victims of what appeared to be simply another regretable, though certainly devastating accident. Needless to say, as yet another plane appeared and repeated the first's contact on the other tower, coupled with reports that were being updated moment by moment, I never left the house. I was rooted in continuing disbelief that such could happen on our country's soil. But many of you perhaps had a similar experience on that day!

I recall being struck with a combination of sadness, relief and pride during the next few days, as reports of the death toll, the survivors and the heroes that surfaced during the aftermath of those collapsed twin skyscrapers. It seems that in spite of the tragic loss, there was a renewed spirit of compassion, sacrifice and prayer that pervaded the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere. With the passage of time, that spirit has faded in many, and though 9-11 did amplify a major humanitarian movement that continues during the more recent hurricane destructions, the spirit that produced a solid response of care has waned.

The very next summer we took a vacation trip with a stopover in New York City. While there, we went to Ground Zero, then fenced off as clean-up continued. Two blocks from the site was the church where President George Washington attended, and which contains the original pew used by his family. We were struck by the appearance of the six foot iron fence which surrounded the front of the building. The whole length of it was covered by all of the memorabilia related to the tragic event which happened the year before. Pictures, banners, posters, ribbons, other pleas for prayer, and reminders of loved ones who lost their lives in the tragedy were hung there!

As I stood there, I was struck by this thought. Indeed, though the nation seems to be bent so often on a wide road away from any recognition of the Sovereignty of God in the affairs of man, there is a point at which man comes to the end of his resources. When he is desperate for a power and understanding greater than his own, he then will look to that symbol which represents for him the closest representation of God he can find. Sitting relatively unscathed from the nearby crumbling towers, it became the beacon of hope in the crisis. Sadly, as the years have passed, many who did not experience personal loss of family or friends, have lost the fervor of those hours, and though the memories may surface from time to time, an ongoing turn to such a "beacon of hope" has returned to the wide road away from such.

What is the answer? How can the spirit be restored to our nation? How can compassion return to the hearts of those who will again sacrifice themselves for others after the example of Christ. It must begin with me and an intimate and fresh dedication to my Saviour and Lord, that walking "in Him" might grow His passion in me. Oh, to see a return to such a life and its blessed resource of compassion and courage.

This last week I received an email from a friend that contained a narrative of prose that I believe has some merit to it, as related to the whole 9-11 of our remembrance. Read it and be encouraged and challenged!

When the 9 – Eleven call comes to a nation –
who will answer?
When the lifeline’s life is on the line –
what happens?
When the rescuer needs to be rescued –
who comes to the rescue?
When the EMT has an emergency –
who responds?
When the force faces force – what force
is enforced?
When its already been a full day and the
night goes on – how do you go on?
When people are hurting but you’re hurting too -
who is healing?
When it seems that the whole world is on fire –
where does the fire fighter start?
When buildings crash and flames break out –
who goes in?
When the pounding of your heart is louder
than the sirens – which call do you answer?
When all human help has failed –
Who is still there, eternally the same?
When that day comes – Who is your 9 – 1 – 1?
--R. Charles Blair, Oct. 11, 2001,
for Civil War Days, Columbus, KY

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