It’s one of those dates that we don’t even have to mention the year but now it’s been 11 years since the worst disaster on American soil took place. Four planes, piloted by terrorists took out part of the Pentagon and both of the World Trade Center buildings, while the last plane fell short of its mark and crashed in a field, killing all onboard.
It was a Tuesday morning. In fact, Roger Pope and Rich Irish, my ministry partners, had just finished working with me at our weekly career transition ministry meeting. Each Tuesday morning, we came together to shepherd people who were struggling with issues of unemployment. Rich was getting ready to head down to his office in the city while Roger had some work to do around the church pulling cable for a computer network upgrade. I went upstairs to say good-bye to Roger and as I turned to leave, the television broadcaster in the background announced the attacks in New York.
Thousands perished and since then a number of first responders have contracted cancer or other illnesses that have either been debilitating or fatal as a result of their help on that day. The toll on American lives was staggering and many families were forever altered as a result of this horrific attack. Similar to recollections of Pearl Harbor more than two generations ago, it doesn’t seem likely that the memories of 9/11 will fade into the background anytime soon. And that’s as it should be.
Each year, there are memorial services and pilgrimages to New York to visit what has come to be known as Ground Zero. Eventually, there will be a museum underground commemorating the lives of those who perished there. And while I am deeply committed to a memorial in their honor, I read today that there are already concerns about cost overruns and the annual cost to maintain the site may well exceed $45 million. Janet and I have been to Ground Zero on one of our trips to New York, but I am sure that it has changed significantly since we were last there. In fact, it has been more than 2 years since our last visit there.
Families of the victims are still asking questions about the events surrounding the deaths of their loved ones. And while we remember, with great agony, the loss of all those lives, we will never know this side of heaven why God let this tragedy happen. I am, however, convinced that God is still on the throne and that there was some purpose, as yet unknown, as to why these things happened.
Since that fateful day, Osama bin Laden has been brought down and many of his lieutenants have also been brought to justice or killed. But that does little to fill the void left in so many families. And that emptiness is something that will last for years.
So what do we make of this? Well, for starters, events like this either draw us closer to God or push us further away. But one thing is for sure – our faith is never the same after something like this as it was before. The verse for tonight is from Matthew – part of what we commonly refer to as the Beatitudes. Jesus is speaking and He tells us, in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
While many people are still waiting to be comforted, God’s promise is that we will know the peace of God. My encouragement this evening is that if you were one of the people who lost a loved one that day, that God wants to walk beside you, and carry you if necessary, to draw Himself closer to you. My prayer is that you will allow Him to grow his relationship with you. And if by chance, you know somebody who lost a friend or family member that day, that God may use you to the fullest to help heal the wounds inflicted on that day 11 years ago today. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…