Remembering 9/11

Twenty years ago, September 11, 2001, 3,229 people lost their lives to terrorism. Most of us remember exactly where we were we heard the news or tuned into the newscasts. It was a national tragedy like Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, the Challenger explosion, and other seismic events that have rocked our lives. At first it seemed like an awful accident that a plane had hit one tower of the World Trade Center. That notion quickly evaporated as another plane hit the remaining tower. Then there was news out of Washington that the Pentagon had been hit, and next was the word that Flight 93 had been hijacked, put on autopilot and was headed for D.C. Possible targets were the Capitol or White House.

We recall with poignant pride that Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer said, “Let’s roll!” He and the other passengers assaulted the terrorists holed up in the cockpit, and selflessly gave their lives in a Pennsylvania field just 20 minutes flying time away from Washington. Forty-four souls died on Flight 93. One hundred eighty-nine souls died at the Pentagon, and two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six died at the World Trade Center. Of those, three hundred forty-three were firefighters, twenty-three were NYPD, and thirty-seven more were police with the NY Port Authority.

Some of you, like me, have been to one or more of these historic sites. At Trinity Church, two short blocks away from where the twin towers once stood, I saw the photo-copied faces of the missing on the makeshift barriers as the nearby buildings were held together by wire, rebar, and blue tarp. This was just a few months after 9/11, and the graveyard at Trinity was still covered in the gray ash of the dead mixed with debris. None of us will forget the scenes: fire departments and police from all over the country doing their part to sift through the rubble; President Bush with bullhorn in hand at perhaps his finest hour standing on the twisted metal; enlistment lines at local military recruitment stations; churches that were full. We were one nation pulling together.

NFL star Pat Tillman turned down a multi-million-dollar contract to keep playing for the Arizona Cardinals so he could enlist. It was 8 months after 9/11. Pat Tillman became a US Army Ranger and served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He died in combat from “friendly fire” in the mountains of Afghanistan. He gave the supreme sacrifice like all those first-responders who ran toward the destruction, not from it. We can honor them by continuing to stand in the breach, and declare, “Not on my watch!” We will honor them by filling churches once again like the Sundays after 9/11. We can promise to stand tall and support civility and civilization. We will depend on our faith in our struggle against injustice, tyranny, and the destruction of morality.

Foreign adversaries laugh now at how our fissures have exposed our weaknesses. We have given them fodder for their attacks. We have become what Jesus and Lincoln both described as a “house divided against itself.” It is our turn to say, “Let’s roll!” We cannot let our freedoms divide us. Can we not do what was done in 2001? Can we not pull together and honor one another though we might disagree? Can’t we embrace the Golden Rule by doing unto others as we would have them do unto us?

Jesus came to foster freedom, but it was not a freedom from responsibility. It was a freedom to embrace responsibility: to love God and neighbor because we want to, not because some totalitarian government threatens us. We can all be American, and live and let live if there is a common cause worth the greater fight or larger battle. We can all do our part to save America from another 9/11. The fabric and soul of our country depends on more than the few and the brave. Each one of us has a part to play.  God bless every 9/11 family, and God bless America.

11 thoughts on “Remembering 9/11

  1. Dr. Tim,
    Thank you, Bless you for your mighty words regards that most awful day of September 11, 2001 and the days that followed this attack on American soil. As you are aware of my 32-years as a Boston (MA) Firefighter plus many years in the fire services after my retirement in Boston. On that fateful day 20 years ago I was off-duty, my wife and I sat at home glued to the TV with live broadcasts of sights and sounds that we will never forget. After that first plane hit the Tower and the major fire began to eat away at this huge sky-scraper, I said to Millie, “There will be many deaths!” When the second plane found its mark, I said to her, “There will be Firefighter deaths!” I knew that those courageous FDNY Personnel would never hesitate to enter those burning towers to rescue as many people as they could. And, they did exactly that by the thousands. As the towers fell, our hearts sank knowing that many would be killed. When the numbers of the dead FDNY Personnel, law enforcement and EMS members were announced, we were again stunned. The aftereffects of that thick smoke, dust and other toxins have further killed and incapacitated thousands more. Civilians have also been affected. Post 9/11, a time of mourning and joining together of all people no matter their politics, religions or socio-economic standings were or, what color their skin was. God was prayed to with no shame by millions in public and in private times.

    Thus, here we all are today about to remember September 11, 2001. We have become a seriously divided country and God has become of less importance when we need Him so much. America has many enemies entrenched within our borders. Our enemies around the world rejoice and are plotting against us all. What will you do on this day of remembrance 20-years post September 11, 2001?

    1. Bob, Amen and thanks for your service. We need a time of soul searching and repentance, for sure. Tim

      Sent from my iPhone

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  2. September 11 will be much more than a football Saturday. Let us never forget the sacrifices made by so many and let All Americans remember that we are one nation under God!

  3. Dr. Tim,
    My Daddy, and most of those from “THE Greatest Generation” are rolling over in their graves.
    How sad and disappointed they would be today with the lack of leadership and hatred and division. I wish we could be the “WE” that took place on 9-12, and the days that followed.
    Thanks for your words.

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