September Eleventh, Two-Thousand and One, a day that lives in the minds and hearts of everyone. A day that some lives ended and all lives changed. Every adult knows exactly where they were that morning. Me, I was opening up a sports bar that I was an assistant manager at in Clearwater, Florida. I was doing my early morning rounds, turning on neon signs and making sure last nights close was up to par. The phone in the bar rang, I answered it on the third ring, the voice on the other end wasn’t recognizable but they seemed to know me. “Are you watching TV?” the voice said. At that point in time I had not turned on the forty some televisions the bar had but was wondering why it was so important to the person calling. “You won’t believe this shit.” Sorry for the expletive but in the context of what I was about to witness, it was fitting. I put the phone down for a second and found a remote to turn on the television closest to me. The second I turned it on the second plane hit. I was in shock, I picked back up the phone to tell the person on the other end what I had just saw but they had hung up.
After that a few cars starting pulling into the parking lot. By this time, I had all the televisions on, usually ESPN, but that morning it was CNN. It was well before opening time but with the televisions visible from the road it was hard to tell people they couldn’t come in to see what had happened. I had about three dozen people come in just to watch television and sit in silence for a good part of an hour.
I called my wife, she had gone to the school to pick up my daughter early. All the schools in Hillsborough County let parents come get their children that day. She was in tears, worried about her sister who lived in New York at the time. The rest of the day was frantic phone calls, voice mails and finally a response saying everyone was okay. My wife’s sister and her husband lost friends that day, we did not, but we all lost something.
Fifteen years later I still have a hard time wrapping my head around what happened. In 2001 I was a non-believer and took the opportunity to point out that God would not have let this happen if he was real. And the truth is, today as a full court follower of Jesus, I still don’t know the answer to why.
In my own life I try to look at the past to learn from how people have overcome adversity in their lives. I try to understand how people overcome a struggle that seems too large or too difficult to conquer. I look at things like the civil rights movement, how hopeless things might have seemed at the time, but how with courage and strength, things got better. I look at the Revolutionary War and how they must have felt outnumbered and out gunned but with perseverance, America was born. I even look at my Chicago Cubs, it just might happen this year, I pray.
When I was looking back at the events of 9/11 I remembered the story of Nehemiah, a man who took up a cause to rebuild what was lost. I look at his sadness, the thought of Jerusalem in disrepair. I look at his courage, the will to ask the king for permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. I look at his leadership, protecting his people from those who wanted to do harm to them. I look at his determination, securing the walls and completing the job in just 52 days. I look at his humbleness, as governor, not taking what was given to him but making sure the people were taken care of first. When I look back at those who rushed to New York after the attacks, to help, rebuild and pray, I think of Nehemiah.
I was so critical at the time; I was so wrong. What took place, the attacks, that was evil. When I look at what happened after the attacks, that was Biblical.
I have to remember that there will always be evil in this world. God’s plan to let us live our lives with free will opens us up to such things. But free will also means that we can follow the teachings of Jesus, and we can overcome the evil with good.
A few days after that day things started to get back to normal. Conversations were still fixed around the attacks but slowly they turned to other topics. Soon the news stations started reporting on other things and soon our day to day rutines came back. Even if things got back to the new normal we will never forget what happened. I refuse to forget, not just the attacks but what happened after the attacks. That America, united under God, worked together to rebuild the walls just like Nehemiah. The wall in this case was the hope that America would overcome. That America would not be crippled with fear but be strong in the face of war.
On this 9/11 I enjoyed an early service at our church with my family. Enjoyed an afternoon BBQ with some friends and soaked up some late summer sunshine on a hay ride. I enjoyed the freedoms I have, and I was not afraid. That goes to prove that the terrorist didn’t win, God won, America won, and we overcame.