I was working as a library assistant at Southside Elementary.
We got a call from a parent to turn on the news. It seemed bizarre. I told the librarian and we walked to the television set, puzzled.
We saw the Twin Towers in New York. It looked like one of them was on fire. We caught pieces of what the news anchor-Matt Lauer, I think-was saying. What on earth? As we watched, still confused, we saw a plane, a big plane fly straight into the other tower. Dear Lord! What was going on?! We were stunned. Was this really happening? They said the plane had been hijacked. Was America being invaded? It felt like “Red Dawn”, a movie I had seen years before. Our eyes were big as we stared at the television. What should we do?
My sister was a third-grade teacher at Southside at the time. I needed to tell her! I tiptoed to her room, trying not to cry. She could tell by my face that something was terribly wrong. Through the slightly opened door I whispered what had happened. She was stunned as well but went back to the children without a word.
Back in the library, we watched in absolute horror, gasping when the South Tower went down. “No!” we cried and knew immediately that the other would soon follow. We prayed people would be able to get out in time!
What should we do?! What about my kids?! They were at their own schools. Do we stay where we are, continue on as if everything is fine or should we race to get them? And then what? Was America being invaded?! I remember whispering, “Lord! Help us!”
No doubt these memories spark some of your own. Most people know exactly where they were when 9/11 happened and can quickly tell the story. We’ve talked about it all week. It’s hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the monumental tragedy.
We went to church that night. All over the nation people flocked to places of worship. It was a good place to go. We were still reeling by that evening, having found out much more information. There was a plane that had crashed into the Pentagon and one that had crashed in Pennsylvania. The passengers had heroically fought back against the terrorists who had taken control of it. We had seen first responders who had rushed in to save lives only to lose their own when the Towers came down. We were mentally and emotionally exhausted. We needed help! We needed some good words…Words of Life.
In my Bible, a passage is marked “World Trade Center Attack-9/11/01”. This is what our pastor read that night from Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” The chapter goes on but those are my favorite parts of it. That day we needed a refuge. “…though the earth give way and mountains fall…” were perfect examples of how we felt. It did indeed feel like our foundation was giving way under us and it hadn’t been mountains that had fallen, but Towers. We prayed. We prayed for our nation, for protection, for guidance. (I can’t help crying as I type. It’s still hard to fathom.)
This reminds me of a story in the Old Testament of the Bible. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat had gotten word that not one, but three armies were coming to attack Judah. He was alarmed, as anyone would be, and resolved to inquire of the LORD. (Good move!) He proclaimed a fast for all Judah. All the people of Judah-every man, woman and child-came together to seek help from the LORD; they came from every town to seek Him.
When all the people had gathered, Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD and prayed (out loud and in front of everybody!): “LORD, the God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your Hand, and no one can withstand You…If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in Your presence before this temple that bears Your Name and will cry out to You in our distress, and You will hear us and save us.’
Jehoshaphat went on to tell God all of the details ending with, “…we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”
Preach it, brother. That sums up exactly the way we felt that terrible day, 15 years ago. We did not have the power or wisdom to face the enemy that had attacked us. We did not know what to do.
I can still remember the fear that night. It must have been similar to the people of Judah.
Fifteen years later, God has still been good and America is still the best place to live. No matter what we face or what our future holds, if calamity comes upon us, let us stand in His Presence and cry out to God in our distress. We can trust that He will hear us…He will help us…He will save us!
Dawn Reed is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.