I’m going to skip away from my normal devotional to ask that question. There are moments of tragedy, moments of shock that are etched on the mind not just of individuals but on communities. On cultures. These are the “where were you” moments. For my grandparents generation, it is, where were you on VE or VJ day? Where were you when man first landed on the moon? The next generation is marked by assassinations. Where were you when MLK and later JFK were shot?
For us, at least for Americans, that question is asked about the tragic events that occurred sixteen years ago today. I was a youth pastor in Webster NY, the first… no, the only one in the building when the children’s pastor called the church and asked, “have you heard?” I acknowledged my ignorance and she, through choked up words managed to get out, “You need to turn on the TV.”
For the next hour or so, I watched as the news came in. I saw the second plane hit live. Shortly after that moment I was on the phone with the NY District college ministries director. We were supposed to meet that day to talk about about my upcoming move to Binghamton to help with the Chi Alpha group there. We decided I would at least head over to Syracuse. Even if we don’t meet, they could probably use my help at the NY Assemblies of God District Office.
I was at the gas station filling up when the first tower fell. There was talk at that time of another bomb. The Pentagon had been hit. A plane went down in PA. Information was flooding in as I drove down the NY Thruway going easily 85mph or more. There was a police car at almost every median but nobody was getting pulled over today. Some other cars were moving so fast they were passing me like I was standing still.
I didn’t know anyone in the towers but I knew people that lived and worked in the area. Just three years before this time I did an internship in the Bronx. Friends I graduated college with a year ago were now living in NYC. Nobody could be contacted. Once at the District Office, there was a steady stream of people calling in to say they, or someone they knew was safe, or that nobody had heard from this person, or that this church had somebody who worked in the towers, please pray. There were also many others who were calling from other parts of the state to ask how they could pray. Convoy of Hope, within hours of the second tower falling had already been mobilized with some people already on the scene working to figure out how to coordinate relief efforts.
My aunt in PA was supposed to be getting a heart transplant. One became available in Boston, I believe, but they could not get it to her because the planes were grounded. By the time that was lifted it was too late. She was no longer healthy enough for the operation and died shortly after. She was one of many overlooked casualties that don’t make the official tally.
These are some scattered memories that still paint a vivid picture in my mind twelve years later. I know this blog, the River Walk, is based out of Two Rivers Assembly in Binghamton, but many of you reading are from all over the world. I’m curious, what are your memories of that day? How were you, or anyone you know impacted in this tragedy? Is there an event or tragedy, perhaps Katrina or the Tsunami that struck the Indian ocean in 04 or Japan last year has left an indelible imprint on your mind. Did Katrina change your life? Are you in Florida or do you have people close to you impacted by Harvey or Irma? Or for those from other parts of the world, do you have loved ones in Bangladesh?
Please, tell your stories. They are worth hearing.