Sept. 11, 2001 will always be one of those, “Where were you when…?” days, similar to the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the space shuttle Challenger exploding and killing seven crew members, and other tragic events of like magnitude.
What were you doing on this day 22 years ago? Do you remember? For most of us, what we now refer to as “9/11” started off just like any other day. We were working, leaving for work, going to school, finishing breakfast, or engaged in any number of everyday life activities. Who knew that before 10 that morning, the world as we knew it would be turned upside-down?
No one could have imagined the horrific scenario: Commercial jets being hijacked and slamming directly into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth diverted from its intended target by courageous passengers, crashing instead in rural Pennsylvania.
Nearly 3,000 lives were lost that day, including more than 2,000 in the iconic towers that incredibly were reduced to rubble, as well as hundreds of first responders, and the 19 terrorists coordinating the attacks.
We now have a whole generation of young people who basically know nothing about that evil day because they were too young or not born yet. But for those of us who helplessly watched live news reports as the tragic events unfolded, that day will remain etched in our memories for the rest of our lives.
I think of my friend Jerry, an entrepreneur who had worked in the North Tower for years. He would have been on one of the building’s top floors that morning if he had not overslept. Instead, he was sitting in his kitchen reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee when one of his daughters frantically called to see where he was and if he was safe. Even to this day, the memory of friends he lost that day saddens him.
For a brief time following the attacks, our nation seemed to experience a spiritual revival of sorts. Many thousands thronged to churches, some of whom rarely if ever had attended before. Countless prayers were offered as realities of the heinous acts raised questions that seemed unanswerable. At moments like that – faced with life’s fragility and the heightened sense of evil’s presence – it’s common to become desperate for hope.
As often happens, however, within weeks our lives had returned to “business as usual,” despite newly enforced security checks that would dramatically alter travel experiences and other measures enacted to prevent future acts of terrorism.
Without becoming morbid, we should use this day to pause, remember, and reflect on things that matter most. Not the football games played last weekend, the weather, what’s on our calendars, or even the perpetual political wrangling that seems beyond resolution.
Things that seem so important today will one day cease to be. We’re assured of this in James 4:13-15, which says, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 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. Instead, you should say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
It’s good to recognize how fleeting earthly life is – and how uncertain. We’d also be wise if we took to heart Jesus’ challenge from His sermon on the mount: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
As the old saying reminds us, “You can’t take it with you.” But we can send it ahead – things that will endure for eternity – as Jesus’ admonition suggests.
On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of men, women and children had plans for later in the day, the next week or the next month. In a flash, their plans were changed for eternity. This sounds hauntingly like 1 Corinthians 15:52 which says, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye…the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
No one knows exactly when that will be. But that day will come, as certainly as the sun rising in the east and the sky being blue. Will we be ready?
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.