by David Cassidy, Christ Community Church
Fifteen years ago today, I awoke at my parent’s home in Franklin Green ready for a regional pastor’s gathering at Christ Community Church. I’d driven here the night before from my home in KY and was looking forward to a great day at the new church on Hillsboro Road. It was 9/11.
I remember stepping out of the guestroom and seeing on the TV screen an image that was immediately startling and baffling. One of the WTC buildings was ablaze, high up, apparently after some massive explosion had ripped apart its steel skin. “What the…” was all I could say, and my dad finished the question with ‘A jet…smashed right into it.’ I finished a cup of coffee and headed out the door for my meeting.
By the time I arrived at CCC, the second building had been struck. You know what happened next… the crushing fall of those great buildings and the shattering of lives that moment signified …. The billowing smoke… the fleeing people covered in dust… DC… Pennsylvania… the horror of it all. The fear, anxiety, and disbelief. The terror. The heroes.
The ministers in that gathering were on their knees in prayer for a long time that day. Then, like everyone else, we had to get to our families and responsibilities. America would be on its knees, and confusion, fear, anger, and a quest for answers would be front and center, not only in our minds but in the minds of those we served. I still had a stop to make at Vandy to pray with a young parishioner battling cancer (he won); I headed out, eventually hitting the interstate and when driving past Ft Campbell said another prayer for those stationed there and their families. Their lives changed too in an instant that morning.
“A time for peace, and a time for war… a time for every purpose under heaven”…. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more” … “I am with you…”
These passages and many others were at the forefront of my thoughts during my drive home on that terrible, unforgettable day. I was trying to process what had happened. I still am.
I wonder how we are doing at processing it all. Our fears and hatreds are intact. Is our love any deeper? Our national unity is in tatters. What does it all mean?
Fifteen years is probably not enough time for us to make sense of it all. One indication that we are still uncertain about how to interpret that day is the dearth of films on the subject. Maybe five or six good ones – Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me, Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center with Nicholas Cage, Paul Greengrass’s United 93, and Paul Greengrass’s Reign Over Me – are all commendable. There are documentaries of course. But when our greatest storytellers have no stories to tell in the face of such horror we can be sure that the memory remains too painful, the wound too deep, the fear too great, and the unanswered questions too many for our collective consciousness.
Fifteen years ago on the Sunday after 9/11 virtually the whole nation went to church. I know that the congregations of Franklin overflowed with shocked and prayerful worshippers. From New York to Miami, from Austin to Anchorage, and from Seattle to Los Angeles, we prayed. The nation was one in prayer, sorrow, hope, and tears.
Not so much right now.
Maybe we should take a moment and go back to church as we did on the Sunday after that terrible day and remember it’s better lessons. New York Pastor Tim Keller preached on the resurrection of Lazarus that Sunday. He noted the tears of Jesus, the anger of Jesus, and the truth of Jesus in that astonishing section of John’s Gospel. He finished that sermon by quoting Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov:
I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage… In the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened with men.
On this fifteenth anniversary of that fateful day we must recall not only the victims and their families, and the heroes of that day and the years that have since passed, but also recall the quiet, determined courageous hope of that moment. If we will remember that Jesus still weeps with those who weep, is still angry over death and its horror, that he will bring to nothing all those weapons designed to destroy and desecrate people, and by his grace restore in the world and all that’s been lost by our fall, then we will mark the day well indeed. Join me.
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