The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Ten years ago today our great nation suffered a great tragedy. On the morning of September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger planes, piloting two into the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia, and a fourth into a field in the Pennsylvania countryside en route to Washington, D.C.
There were no survivors on any of the flights. The death toll soared into the thousands as innocent victims and responders died in the mayhem.
I was flying that morning too—in a smaller commercial airliner on my way to Atlanta, Georgia. Along with the rest of the passengers on our flight, I had no idea what was taking place until we landed and found ourselves stranded on the tarmac.
Little by little the news trickled in. Once we were cleared to enter the terminal, I stood before a television screen in rapt attention as president George W. Bush addressed the nation, strengthening our resolve and encouraging us to find hope in God’s Word as he quoted from the twenty-third psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Since that time America has risen like the great nation it is to rebuild among the rubble and resume its place of leadership in the world. In the wake of 9/11 our country has gone to great lengths to defend freedom and democracy—not only on American soil but in other parts of the world as well. Recently the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks was found and brought to justice, a demonstration of our military’s resolve to protect our nation.
What have we learned in the last 10 years? I’m not in a position to speak for the nation, but I can tell you what it’s taught me.
No place is a safe place. This isn’t about hopelessness; it’s about realism. No matter how hard we try to protect ourselves, we have no guarantee when it comes to life. We can die at the hands of terrorists at home or abroad, and we can die in our easy chairs during a commercial break. James reminds us of our mortality: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Life’s uncertainty should serve as a wake-up call to all of us.
All places are safe places. While life on earth comes with no guarantees, life in Christ is as certain—and safe—as it gets. Christians know “that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1). As a result we no longer fear “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). So in this sense, everywhere we are is a safe place as we rest in the care of a loving heavenly Father.
As the psalmist observed, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).