Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering the Sights and the Smells of 9/11

After viewing several video segments, some of them from amateurs, I remember the intensity of this day just 7 years ago. I remember driving to work that morning. As I drove, I heard the first news of the plane attack. I remember the sinking, familiar feelings of the Murrah bombing six years earlier. I remember thinking .... "Oh no, here we go again." I had been at work a few minutes, trying to figure out what was happening, along with the others in my office, when my 16 year old daughter called me from school. She asked me what was happening to our country - was someone attacking our country? I told her that I thought it was isolated, although I wasn't sure, but I was hoping. I told her not to worry - our country would be okay, we could deal with whatever was happening.

How did we even work that day? We were in the business of giving others hope; we were there to offer God's strength to those who needed His hope and His strength. We couldn't quit doing that for the day; we couldn't say to them that we couldn't grab onto Him that day.

As a ministry of healing and hope who had served in the middle of America's most dramatic bombing before that day, we were asked to come help the New Yorkers offer that same healing and hope of our Lord in the middle of the new biggest tragedy of our time.

As the director of training and one who was tasked to bring together people to produce materials quickly, I waited to go on the second team to NYC. I arrived in Manhattan about a month after 9/11. Our team arrived just before dinner. As soon as we ate, our leader of the first team took us to see the smoking remains of the Twin Towers. He is a retired Marine, no wimpy slouch. As we looked and smelled the air ... our Marine, with a voice choked with emotion, shared his perspective .... every American needs to see this up close and feel the atmosphere and smell the smoke of the burning pile.

None of us wanted to talk about what was in the pile burning still, one month later, before our eyes. Ashes still filled the air. Steam would shoot out of the pile when the round-the-clock, heavy equipment operators pulled some big pieces of steel or concrete off and air hit the hot materials and caught fire anew. The fire would hit the moisture that had been poured on to contain the heat. The smoke and steam would collide into a never ending plume rising over Manhattan, visible for miles.

How can we see what the video of the tragedy and the people who stood and watched it? How can we see it and not be deeply sad and deeply angry at the evil, sick minds who conceived it? Have we lost sight in our country of the intensity of those days? Of the depth of perversion of the people behind that attack? Is it not obvious that they hate us and want to destroy us? How can we become complacent and apathetic about the need for vigilance?