by Effie-Alean Gross
The 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 marks a terrible tragedy in U.S. history, an event that changed life forever in America. At the same time, the last decade has demonstrated America’s resilience and resolve.
As a praying people, we have interceded on behalf of our enemies. As a pliable people, we have adjusted to protect our families and our nation. As a determined people, we remember the nearly 3,000 individuals from 115 nations who lost their lives that day.
Immediately the issue of national security rose to the forefront. Our federal government provided color-coded threat levels: red, orange, yellow, blue, and green, now replaced by a two-level terrorist alert system: an Elevated Alert warns of a credible terrorist threat while an Imminent Alert warns of a credible, specific, and impending terrorist threat.
Moment of Crisis
Many of us can remember where we were, what we were doing, and how we heard the news. President George W. Bush was sitting in a classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, listening politely as second-graders read aloud, when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, leaned over and whispered the unthinkable. A passenger plane, American Airlines Flight 11, had hit the North Tower at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan at 8:45 a.m. (EDT).
Many on the West Coast were just waking up. A phone call came with a voice screaming, “Turn on the television! America is under siege!” As live news reports televised the burning building, a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. (EDT). “It was surreal . . . like a movie,” thousands said, stunned. The Pentagon was later hit by the commandeered American Airlines Flight 77.
As the nation grieved, loved ones of the nearly 3,000 victims at the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a hijacked plane crashed near Pittsburgh, felt shocking pain. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters were buried beneath tons of concrete and steel.
First responders endured enormous hardships to rescue survivors. More than 400 rescue workers died in the process. Just hours after the attacks, three firemen—George Johnson, Dan McWilliams, and Billy Eisengrein—raised Old Glory at Ground Zero. Like the soldiers who raised the flag on Iwo Jima atop Mt. Suribachi on February 23, 1945, courageous New York firefighters displayed an emotional message.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush said in a speech, “We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.” Volunteers responding to the tragedy listened to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani direct various agencies and workers. He urged New Yorkers to stay at home and ordered an evacuation of nearby areas. Flights were cancelled. Wall Street was closed. Schools were dismissed. America and the world cried.
For 60 years, since the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and the subsequent involvement in World War II, the United States had not encountered an enemy strike on her own soil. On 9/11 we were caught off guard and robbed of our innocence in an instant. The enemy, al-Qaeda, changed America forever.
“Make no mistake,” President Bush said at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, “the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.”
Our National Motto
Terrorists can strike anywhere and at any time. Safety at home or abroad cannot be taken for granted. Two thousand years ago, Jesus warned about false security. “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into” (Matthew 24:43).
Out of our national tragedy came new political and foreign policies. Military troops were sent to combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Global policies have been redefined in response to radical Islam.
As battlefields emerged from places unimaginable, American fortitude, hope, and prayer became lifelines in a sea of disaster. Since 9/11, riveting events continue to alarm the world:
• Wall Street scandals,
• political corruption,
• housing bubble/foreclosures,
• government bailouts,
• economic meltdown,
• natural disasters,
• high unemployment,,
• healthcare dilemmas,
• immigration and border issues,
• the war on drugs.
In spite of it all, “In God We Trust” is more than a national motto. It is reality for Christians worldwide.
Rebounding from Adversity
From the inception of the Homeland Security Advisory System, the lowest two color-coded tiers, blue and green, were never used. To lower the alert level is to lower preparedness, critics argued until the new National Terrorism Advisory System introduced a more effective system in April 2011.
With all of the difficulties of the past decade, we’re left to wonder about the future of the United States and more specifically, the future of individuals struggling to make sense of unprecedented events. Yet, searching a little deeper, a positive outlook is possible.
America has always rebounded from adversity. Many of our nation’s wars brought dark days of rationing and loss of life. Natural disasters brought hardship and soup lines. Stock market crashes brought poverty to thousands overnight. But on every occasion the American people have recovered and moved forward.
In addition to our long record of recovery, the United States is the world’s undisputed leader in military strength, followed in order by China, Russia, India, and the U.K. As the strongest military force in the world, the United States of America gives increased reassurance that religious and political extremists, international terrorist organizations, and other foes will be defeated. By God’s grace, the American people will survive and flourish, as we have for more than two centuries.
Trusting in God
Is relying on our track record or military might enough? “It is better to take refuge in the lord than to trust in humans” (Psalm 118:8). Our strength is weak in comparison to the Lord’s mighty hand. Armed with a sling and a smooth stone, young David killed Goliath. Faith caused David to look at the giant differently.
Our faith can cause us to look at terrorists differently, too. We pray for peace and pray for our enemies. The Twin Towers were two of four terrorists’ targets on 9/11, but Christians aim for a different Tower. “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:3). We are safe when we run to the Lord (see Proverbs 18:10). It’s possible, with all of the security measures being taken, America is safer today than 10 years ago.
Today we faintly remember the color-coded threat levels, but the symbolism behind the red, white, and blue of our Star-Spangled Banner cannot be forgotten. As first assigned by Charles Thomson (1729-1824), secretary of the Continental Congress, white signifies purity and innocence, red represents hardiness and valor, and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
Appropriately, we commemorate the tragedy of 9/11 and remember our fallen heroes with a special U.S. flag. A National 9/11 American Flag has been sewn back together from a scorched, smoke-damaged, torn, and frayed flag that flew near the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers collapsed. Restorative patches from retired flags of all 50 states have been hand-stitched by 9/11 family members, first responders, military veterans, educators, students, and community service volunteers. Whole again, after a nationwide tour, the commemorative flag will be honored at the permanent memorial being built at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
God’s banner over us is love (see Song of Solomon 2:4). Some things never change.
Effie-Alean Gross is a freelance writer in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
‘Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.’
As we remember what happened to our country a decade ago, let’s also honor the God who never changes, who is always at our side in good times and bad.
Consider the words of the prophet Habakkuk:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”