Eight weeks of media coverage had not readied me for my first trip to New York following the terror of September 11. As the USAir shuttle headed north from Reagan to Laguardia, I remember asking the flight attendant which side of the plane would provide the best view of Manhattan. I knew logically what I would see—but I was stunned emotionally by what I could no longer see. How could those towers have vanished? How could the landscape of thirty years be so brutally altered in thirty minutes? How could such enormous devastation be incurred by such hateful cowards? The sight was a painful one, and my teary eyes looked away after several minutes. The unsettling in my stomach that came upon me as I watched the horror on television eight weeks earlier had suddenly returned. The view from the sky over NY was shocking to my senses and truly beyond my ability to comprehend.
No theology, philosophy, or sociology course had ever prepared me for something like this. I did take a history course once on World War II. I was 18. Maybe I should have paid more attention when we covered the Holocaust. The professor mentioned the number “six million” on a frequent basis, as well as the words “never forget.” When I visited Dachau on a backpacking trek across Europe, that number and those words took on more meaning. I was 22. I am now 44. Suddenly, the words “never forget” are more poignant and powerful than ever before. I practice and preach the power of love and the strength of God. These days, I’m soberly reminded that I need to learn more about the power of hate and the strength of Satan. It is wise to know all one can about the opposition.
They say history repeats itself. If you were not moved by the atrocities of Stalin, Hitler, or Amin—maybe it’s because you were too young to remember. That particular factor makes it very easy to forget. Perhaps you remember Bangladesh, the Congo, and South Africa. Surely you remember Rwanda, Somalia, and Kosovo. Still no tug on your heart strings? How about New York City, Washington D.C. and a field near Pittsburgh? Why must things “hit home” in order for them to inspire our faith, prompt our indignation, and quicken our resolve? Oh, that we would be a people whose hearts break at the very things that grieve the heart of God.
The terrorism on America left a lot of people dead. And it left a lot of grief stricken families and friends trying to figure out how life was turned upside down on a sunny Tuesday morning. And it left a lot of co-workers and survivors fighting to get through the days without harrowing memories and the nights without horrible dreams. And it left a lot of citizens attempting to resume a “normal” life in the face of unsettling headlines. I don’t know what a lot adds up to. I cannot assign numbers. I’m not sure anyone will ever be able to calculate them. CNN has not reported the latest count of aching hearts, nervous mothers, weary public servants, or frightened travelers. I just know it’s a lot.
Continued at “A Good Name – Part II”