September 10, 2001, was a normal day, only, I was tired. I’d been working what seemed unruly hours to my 24 year-old self and hadn’t run errands, rested, or gone to get my physical in who knows how long. But, I was living the city life. New York had a captivating energy, almost like the pure oxygen that they pump into the casinos. It allows you to believe that you can run and run, and never have to stop.
That day, though, I realized that I needed a time out. Just to get a few more hours of sleep and tend to myself. So, I requested a personal day the following day.
The following day was September 11th. I woke that morning, in my apartment located just across the river in New Jersey. Throughout the morning and day, the nightmare that befell our country unfolded. Fighter jets flew overhead so low that everything shook. A nuclear warship parked just off the shore, for all to see. A nearby neighborhood known to be a place where Muslim families lived was raided, and the suspicious were taken into custody in the jail cells located in the basement of Giants Stadium, only a few blocks from me. All phone service was down for most of the day, and two of my best friends were in the thick of the destruction. It would be later that evening before I knew that they’d made it.
Somehow, I wasn’t in Manhattan that day as I’d normally be. Something prompted me to “take a personal day.” I know now, many years later, that that “something” was Someone.
Whether our faith is matured enough to recognize the hand of God in our life is irrelevant to the fact that God works for our good always, at all times, and in all matters. What I didn’t know then, that I do now, is that, for a greater reason than I can ever know in this life, I was meant to live on.
“Whether our faith is matured enough to recognize the hand of God in our life is irrelevant to the fact that God works for our good always, at all times, and in all matters.”
There were many whose earthly lives ended on September 11th, and that’s a sobering and difficult reality that a lot of us who were spared grapple with. Why us? Why did we live and so many others perished? Sometimes, there is no good explanation that can explain the mystery of life as we know it. Our hope and prayer is that, in heaven, all will be revealed and the answers we so desperately seek will be given to us. Until then, faith in our God as a protector, as all-knowing, and as Love personified must comfort us.
I recently discovered the song “Defender.” It’s a must-listen for anyone who needs to know that “God’s got me.”
I love that the song describes God’s protection of us as “His way.” So many times throughout our journey from the cradle to the grave, various tragedies befall us. While it’s true that God allows these things to happen, He isn’t the source of them. Rather, He already knows how the play, that we are acting out on the stage known as our life, will end. But loving us in the highest and best way is His default. Like a parent, His way is to shield us from harm, to save us when we don’t know how to save ourselves, and to change our spiritual lives by allowing us to experience suffering.
It was shortly after September 11 when my priorities began shifting. Only many years later was I able to look back, remember that day, and see it for the pivotal marker in my life that it truly was. That day was a part of God’s preparing my heart for a life that I was yet to live and arming me with strength for future battles I’d be faced to fight.
I remember the smell of the ashes from Ground Zero, and the mini plumes of smoke that were like an eternal flame rising up from the wreckage for so many days. I remember the quiet tenderness that hardened New Yorkers offered to one another on the sidewalks and in the subways. I remember the eerie emptiness of the streets of Manhattan, as everyone retreated to mourn.
It’s good to remember sometimes. As I get older, I see more and more layers of what my early years reveal. Only now can I appreciate the miracle of living through September 11th. Thanks be to God.
World Trade Center image: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group/Getty Images