For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. — 1 Corinthians 1:18
I remember the day well, etched in my memory. Karen and I had just finished our morning coffee and shared our plans for the day. It was a Tuesday, production day, so my tasks were simple — write, re-write, edit and paginate the latest issue of the Reveille/Between the Lakes, a routine that would consume most of the day and night and into the wee hours of the next morning. Karen had a date with the dust mop and vacuum. Cleaning and polishing was on her agenda.
For some reason, I had to go upstairs. As I rumbled back down, I was expecting to hear Bon Jovi or DirecTV’s Malt Shop Oldies blaring, but instead caught Karen staring at the television, her coffee cup pressed to her mouth but not drinking.
“What’s wrong, hon?” I asked, and without moving a muscle she told me a plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. We just stood there in disbelief, trying along with the rest of the world to figure out just what was happening that fateful morning 11 years ago. I managed to get the coffee cup away from her, and we hugged as we watched the smoke plume around the building. Just after 9 a.m. — about 10 minutes into our viewing — a second plane crashed into the south face of the south tower. We both gasped at the sight and just held each other tight through tear-filled eyes. We knew right then and there, one plane could have been an accident, but not two. Terrorism had hit our shore. This was our Dec. 7, our “day of infamy.”
In quick succession reports came in about a third plane crashing into the Pentagon, quick evacuations of federal buildings in Washington and a fourth plane down in the Pennsylvania countryside southeast of Pittsburgh.
The day was surreal. County and municipal buildings closed shortly after federal and state building were ordered shut down. A primary election was postponed. The two prisons in our county shifted to a higher level of security with armed guards at the entrances. Schools cancelled after-school activities. Businesses closed early. Churches opened for public and private prayer services. Evening meetings were cancelled.
I managed to get a paper out that week, but each time I passed the television I stopped for an update and a hug. Karen didn’t do any housework.
Friday, the National Day of Remembrance, Karen and I attended a noontime service. As the bell tolled at United Methodist Church of Waterloo, we held hands with friends and strangers. One of those former strangers, Jan Marquart, summed it best by saying the key now was “to pray … and trust in God.” She added, “We have to give what we can and learn to love one another again.”
Over those few days, there were no Democrats or Republicans, no conservatives or liberals, no blacks or whites, no gays or straights … just Americans reeling from a gut punch.
I can’t say I knew any of the victims in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania or their families. But I do know there were many reports of victims calling family members that morning to say “I love you” one last time. This morning, I made sure to tell my family and closest friends I loved them. It’s a habit we should get into … every day.
The sobering aftermath of the events of 11 years ago is the realization every day could be our last, so we must make every day count. Live and love like today is all you have, because some day it will be.
As Ron Hutchraft stated on this day, “Be ready for eternity whenever it comes. More than anything, I think that’s what screamed — and still screams — to me from the rubble of Ground Zero. We just can’t count on tomorrow.”
Which brings me to Paul’s comment to the Corinthians. The simple sentence was part of Sunday’s reading. I knew it had to be shared … at the time I didn’t know how. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, many of us — Karen and I included — sought comfort with our God. To unbelievers, that’s just foolishness … but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
We have to use that power, not silently, but as a witness to show our friends and relatives what we know about what Jesus did on the cross for us and for them. Give them a chance to live — forever.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You cannot give God thanks and stay down and discouraged.