September 11, 2019

Remembering the Day That Everything Changed

Maybe it is because I feel as if I owe my life to the brave passengers on United Flight 93 — if indeed that plane-turned-weapon was directed towards the U.S. Capitol.

Or maybe it is because for my friends from Sudan/South Sudan, both Christian and Muslim, “9/11 was 24/7…and 365.” After all, I was at the Rayburn House Office Building that morning, waiting to begin a press conference on why there should be capital market sanctions against companies that did business with the Islamic Republic of Sudan because of Sudan’s connections to terrorism.

Terrorism! Hah! We didn’t have a CLUE until that morning.

Or maybe it is because for months after 9/11 I poured over every bio sketch of every innocent man, woman, and child that the terrorists had taken from us. There were stories of grandmothers on their way to visit grandchildren, young men just starting out in their careers, flight attendants that fought with everything they had to thwart the jihadists’ plans, proud immigrants working in the service industry, Irish American firemen and police from a long line of Irish American firemen and police, and so, so many others. Like my friend from church, Angie, a civilian Naval Intelligence Watch Officer at the Pentagon.

(Photo credit: Faith McDonnell)

So that’s why I am not getting over 9/11.

I add a caveat. Not getting over 9/11 until the dawn of the New Heaven and New Earth. When the Kingdom of God comes in its fullness, and every wrong is made right, every tear is wiped away by God Himself, then  we will see as we are seen, and there will be no room or reason for grief.

The dazzling Lamb that was slain, the vast multitude that no one can count, the joy of seeing the Ineffable One face to face will make getting over 9/11 quite simple. Until then we live with — if not an unhealed wound — at least a scar that reminds us of the death of innocence and ushering in of an irrational world turned upside down.

It doesn’t mean that we have to hate (although some on the Left will say, as they always do, that truth is the new “hate speech” and that just remembering is hate. And besides, who are we to be upset for what we so richly deserved, we white nationalist, racist, wicked Americans!)

It doesn’t mean that we can’t forgive (although some on the Right believe that it is betrayal to forgive unforgivable evil, that we must have dismissed that evil — not understanding that forgiveness, real forgiveness, is only present when the evil is truly acknowledged and the Spirit of God enables us to say “even though” and to not allow ourselves to be controlled by that evil).

That Kingdom has not yet come. The evil in this world continues, not knowing that its time is limited by God Himself. And that some day, when those suffering and martyred cry out “How long, O Lord, how long?” His response that It Is Finished will thunder through the whole earth and echo in our ears — filling some with incomparable joy and filling some with unbelievable dread.

Until then, I will continue to remember 9/11,  and to honor those who died then, and those heroic First Responders and valiant men and women of our armed forces that have given all.

So instead of reprinting one of the 9/11 articles that I have written in past years, I am reprinting the links to a number of them this time, the 18th anniversary:

Remembering a Victim of Terrorism,” first published in Front Page Magazine, September 11, 2009.

Angela Houtz, September 6, 1974-September 11, 2001,
Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory
Angie served her country and the homeless – until 9/11 cut her life short. 

Angie Houtz was carrying on two great projects, and although the worlds of Pentagon Naval Intelligence and the Grate Patrol (feeding program for the homeless) naturally did not intersect, they did in the life and service of a young woman whose highest calling was doing the will of God that she loved – humbly sharing that love and performing acts of caring service for all who needed her.

Just One of the Lives Lost on September 11, 2001” first published August 31, 2009.

Officer John Joseph Lennon
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department
Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory

The man said that he, and many others, owed their lives to an “Officer Lennon,” who had led them out of the smoke-filled building. When he turned to thank him, he said, the officer was already heading back inside. Minutes later the tower collapsed. . . It is estimated that over 25,000 people were saved because of the officers from local, state, and federal agencies who gave their lives saving the lives of others.

September 11 and Sudan” first published September 11, 2012.

In addition to opposing the immoral financing of a regime committing terrorism against its own people, we were convinced (I remain so) that the Sudanese regime was complicit in global terrorism and jihad. While some members of Congress also believed this and said so at House hearings, successive Administrations (Clinton, Bush, Obama) continued to prefer the fantasy that the Sudan regime was a good faith partner. They downplayed intelligence received from sources on the ground in Sudan pointing to the regime’s connections to terrorists around the world.

Everything You Know is About to Change: Why I Will Never Forget 9/11” first published on September 11, 2013

Before the events take place that cause Prince Caspian to summon the Penvensie children back to Narnia, he was told by his teacher, “Everything you know is about to change.” But for America on 9/11, as for Caspian and the Penvensies, everything had already changed, we just didn’t know it yet.

Remembering the Heroes and Victims of 9/11” first published on September 11, 2013

Every single person who was killed on 9/11 deserves to be remembered — even twelve years later. One aid to the remembrance and honoring our fellow citizens who died is the existence, all over our country and even beyond, of memorials to the victims of 9/11.

Living Victims of 9/11” published September 9, 2014

The venomous evil directed at America that day has poisoned us in many ways, but this statement becomes more than metaphor when it applies to thousands of living victims who are sick and dying from illnesses and injuries.

Sudan and 9/11: The End of Illusions” first published September 7, 2014

In the midst of shock, my only continual thought was how clear it all was now – that now they would “get it.” Now they would understand what was really happening in Sudan. . . I’m not sure I even knew what I meant by them “getting” it. I had not yet begun to articulate even to myself the problem that I saw with U.S. Sudan policy beyond the fact that it needed to be “strengthened.” It took 9/11 to make it clear that what was taking place in Sudan was being treated as a humanitarian issue by the U.S. government and that the root cause was never addressed. It was the same root cause that we saw in the suffocating smoke, burned flesh, incinerated body parts, collapsed towers, and obscene yawning chasms that indicated that we had crossed a line in history from which we could never return.

Not Getting Over 9/11” first published September 11, 2015

When I stopped to think that each of these names, thousands of names,  perhaps dozens listed with “and unborn child” — represented a real person with a life, a family, a story — it was overwhelming.



2 Responses to Remembering the Day That Everything Changed

  1. David says:

    One should not forget 9-11, but one should move on. My best friend of many years died a year and a day prior to 9-11, so I was already in a solemn mood at the time of the attack. While never in personal danger, I had to breathe the smoke from the burning ruins for several weeks. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with grief and some recover sooner than others. I consider the remembrances to have taken on a morbid life of their own. The monument in NYC is larger than the National WWII memorial and has become a major tourist attraction with vendors hawking picture books and other items. The US has not suffered the devastation of war in anyone’s memory as have many other countries. Things need to be considered in proportion.

    • JR says:

      I agree. It’s one of those central experiences (like the Moon Landing, or Pearl Harbor, etc) – we should remember, but not be consumed by that memory.

      By remembering what happened, and why, and who fell that day, we can be better (people, Americans, Christians) going forward. And we should not just remember on this day, but regularly.

      We all have our stories from that day. We should share them, and we should remember.

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