It was a day much like any other day. I had gone in a bit early to work at Ball State University. I had turned on the television in the lobby of our office building and was listening to it as I started the computer and began the day in my office.
Then I got a phone call:
Co-worker: "Toni, do you have the TV on in your office?"
Me: "Yes, why?"
Co-worker: "Turn on the news! A plane just hit the World Trade Center. I'll be right there."
I got up and changed the station on the television to the Today Show and suddenly our "normal" day just stopped. No one was working. Everyone was glued to the screen. Folks were coming in from nearby offices to see what was happening. Students started filing in. Soon the lobby was full of people. All of us in shock about what we were seeing. First one plane hit. Then another hit. Then another hit the Pentagon. It was all so surreal.
Our Graduate Assistant had recently been to New York and I will never forget him saying. "You don't understand all the people UNDER those Towers." Until then I had never known that there was a mall underground beneath the Twin Towers. We watched in horror as people were jumping out of the building to their deaths below. And not just one or two. People from both Towers jumping out of windows willing to take their chances that they might survive the fall...but they didn't.
Then the unthinkable happened. One Tower fell. We were all watching it, but still couldn't believe what we had just seen. All those people...just gone. The smoke on the television screen was so thick it looked like a wall coming toward the camera people. Then when the shock of the first building falling began to subside we immediately thought about the second one. Would it fall too? Surely not. It didn't get hit in the same place as the first. Surely it would remain standing...and then it fell too.
We looked on...not able to tear ourselves away from the screen, but praying for God to be with those in New York. We were trying to call our families to see if everyone was aware of what was happening. To reassure ourselves that we were ok...that our families were ok, but even though we were in Muncie, IN and not New York City, the shock was just as real for us.
I remember when I went to lunch that day with a friend, we were still watching the television in a local restaurant and it was there that I heard about the fourth plane that had crashed in the field before it could reach the White House. And I remember thinking, "When is this going to stop? How many more are there?"
That day, the world changed. Everything that we had taken for granted was up for grabs and our security in our every day lives was taken away. People who went to church all the time and those who generally were not church going people were praying and crying out to God for help. There was a tragedy that for those my age and younger was unequaled to anything we had ever seen in our country. We, as a country, turned to God. And rightly so. He was there. He was giving comfort and peace in horrible situations. He was giving strength to those who needed it so desperately. And then when the initial shock wore off, and the terror that had gripped so many subsided...sadly then so did their need for God. But thankfully, God didn't leave. He continued to give comfort and peace and strength and wisdom to all those who asked. He was there in the midst of the rubble as people looked for survivors. He was with the families waiting to hear if their loved one had escaped the building in time. He was rejoicing with those who found their loved ones safe and comforting those who did not.
He continues to do so even today. He stands there loving us...even when we don't deserve it. Just waiting on us to turn to Him again...individually and as a Country. He has so much to give us. So much to share. Let us not wait until tragedy strikes to reach out to Him.
When something like September 11th happens, it should remind those of us who know Jesus just how many do not. We often think we have more time. The people that died that day thought they had more days ahead of them. They didn't know they were out of time. We also don't know how much time we have ahead of us. I could live to be 100 or I could die this afternoon. My amount of time on this Earth is not known. But I want to reach as many as I can for the Kingdom in the time I have. When tragedy strikes, we should not have to reach out to God...we should be able to allow Him to hold us up because He's already holding us in His arms...if we will just let Him.