I still remember the morning that I heard a news anchor announce with somber disbelief, "A plane has flown into the World Trade Center." I was about to leave for church and almost turned the T.V. off before hearing the report. It was a day I will never forget. I remember thinking how strange and unbelievable it seemed at that moment.
As I reflect, with a heavy heart, on the 20th Anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and U.S. Pentagon, I am amazed at how immensely our world has evolved. On the other hand, I am equally surprised by the things that haven't changed at all.
Recently, I had the privilege of spending time with established Fox News journalist Chris Wallace as he, too, reflected on that devastating day. Wallace, who has spent the last several years writing about the events of that horrific day in his new book, Countdown to Bin Laden, recollected what September 11, 2001, looked like for him.
"I was getting ready to go to work. I was in Washington. I was working at ABC at the time. I was getting dressed, and someone called me up and said, 'Hey, turn on your T.V.,' and I saw that the two towers had both been demolished. You know, it was on every station by that point. I started to drive to the ABC headquarters in downtown D.C. As I'm driving, I start seeing this big plume of black smoke," he explains.
"I didn't know what it was. I figured it had something to do with the attack. It turned out that in the time that I was driving to work, the Pentagon had also been struck." As Wallace explains the story, I can tell that although the two of us had different experiences, the events affected us similarly.
Looking back, over the days and weeks that followed 9/11, one thing is clear – the best of humanity arose in spite of an evil act. I will never forget seeing first responders walk into the building, many of them not knowing the devastation that awaited.
The best of society not only responded but responded with courage that day. Although it would be a decade later, another group of men also responded with courage in going after the evil leader of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden. These men are known as Seal Team Six.
As Wallace and I continued to recall the events that would follow 9/11, I was struck by what Wallace had learned through his research.
"They all thought on Seal Team Six that this was a suicide mission. Robert J. O'Neill said to me, 'We don't think we're coming back.' There was a lot of doubt when President Obama decided on April 28 to pursue Bin Laden. O' Neil saw it as a 50/50 proposition."
Wallace recalled O'Neil asserting that "If Bin Ladin is there, the whole compound is going to be booby-trapped. There are going to be guards there, so they're going to come after us. We may be able to take down Bin Laden, but there's no way we're coming back."
"And yet they went ahead and did it because that's what Seals do," Wallace said.
As Wallace explains this, I couldn't help but feel proud to be an American and, better yet, a Christ Follower knowing that God always has another plan to confront evil acts and their perpetrators when evil strikes. On this 9/11 Anniversary, my prayer is that we will reflect and thank God for placing people of courage in our lives who will step up and confront challenging situations.
I will never forget the courageous men and women from that day and others who would end up responding by going to dangerous places such as Iraq and Afghanistan to confront terrorism.
As Wallace and I continued our conversation, I was reminded how much had happened over the last twenty years and how faithful God has been in protecting our country.
Over the years, since 9/11, I recall as a pastor and leader in my community, having to walk people through the new world in which we had found ourselves. The verse that ministered to me, and one in which I still find comfort, is John 16:7.
In this passage, Jesus is reminding the Disciples that he will one day physically leave them but that He will, in turn, send his presence as a guide. I love this passage because it's a reminder that we have an advocate who is on our side to guide us no matter the situation.
Reflecting on the tragic day of 9/11 and the state of affairs in Afghanistan, I pray that God will remind us that His kindness (Romans 2:4) leads us to where He wants us to be; repentant and dependent on Him.