Audrey Rae and Braxton-
Today is September 11th. I hope that by the time you’re old enough to read this, that date still means something. I don’t say that in hopes that we perpetuate vengeance or encourage an arrogant sense of nationalism, I say that because I think generations should share important memories and moments in life. 9/11 changed the world as we knew it, and I think it’s important that I’m able to share these memories, and the impact they had on my life, with you.
I vividly remember that day. I was in my freshman year of college and I was tired. As most freshman do, I struggled with balancing a social life and good study habits, and therefore sleep was sacrificed (I remedied this issue in future years of college by sacrificing good study habits…I don’t recommend this for you). But on Tuesdays, I got to sleep in. My first class didn’t begin until 11, therefore I didn’t wake before 10:45.
But my regenerative slumber would be interrupted by friend and next-dorm-neighbor David Holt. Dave walked in to my room and nudged me awake. “Steve, you’d better wake up, someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center.” His words were hazy, and I didn’t quite fathom what he had said, so I groggily responded, “That sucks, we should pray about it.”
Typical Christian college response.
I rolled over and was about to drift back into sleep when his words finally hit me. There had been an attack.
I finally got out of bed, got dressed, and wandered in to the common room, where about twenty people had gathered around a television and were watching the news. It was almost surreal, seeing smoke billowing from the building, watching the second building be hit, watching them collapse.
As unreal as all of this was, there was certainly a disconnect. An attack like this had never happened on US soil in my lifetime. I wasn’t sure what to feel other than shock. I exited the dorm to head for class to discover something that is rarely found on a college campus: silence. Classes had been cancelled. Many stores in the area, being small mom-and-pop shops, were closed. The normal hustle and bustle of a southern California college town was nowhere to be seen. It was like as if the world had come to a pause to watch these events.
A lot of things could be said of what followed. Worldwide support began, as did a whole lot of anger. Nationalism and revenge became synonymous. Thousands rose to help clear debris, search for survivors, and give aid however they could. The New York Fire Department and Police Department would become living examples of the word “hero”.
Whenever you’re reading this, I’m certain much will have changed. Even now certain parts of those events are fading into memory. Differences that were put aside have been picked back up again. International support isn’t something we have in the abundance that we did in 2001. And each day the events of September 11, 2001 become less memory and more history.
I tell you this because there are things that I hope never fade. There are lessons that I learned from this that I hope you can learn as well.
Never underestimate support from strangers. I have never in my life seen so many people rise up with a heart for aid as after these events.
Remember that persons do stupid things, not people groups. Hold individuals responsible for their actions, never think that one person’s actions reflect on their entire race/political group/school/family/etc.
Heroes are more often defined by self-sacrifice than dominance. Television and film may glorify the action hero that has droves of casualties in his wake, but those of us who remember 9/11 will know that a real hero can also be spelled “FDNY” or “NYPD”, as well as reflected by hundreds of other fire departments and police departments, nurses, doctors, and other common people from around the nation and world.
Finally, know that there are times when it’s good to stop. It may not be a national pause like it was for 9/11, but there will be moments in your life where you need to halt and reflect. They’ll be rare, but when they come, it’s better to reflect than to try and push through it. Take a day away from friends, away from your phone (or whatever newfangled thing they’ll have when you read this), even away from family, if you need to. Pause, breath, pray, and come back to the world when you’ve gathered yourself.
When you read this, 9/11 will probably be akin to Pearl Harbor as “that attack in the US that brought us to war that we learned about in history class”. I hope you do learn the facts, but I also want you to know that many lessons were learned that day and in the wake of the events. I hope that you can continue those lessons in your life. Love you guys.
1 Corinthians 1:4
Christian, husband, father, and pastor. Also a proud and dedicated nerd. One of the dads at TheDadLetters.com and author of TheLivesIHaveLived.wordpress.com.