Tuesday September 11th, 2001, I got my son Aaron off to kindergarten, then took my three-year-old son, Nathan, to the mother’s-day-out program where I was the director. Only moments after arriving at work, my co-worker, Sharon, received a very disturbing phone call from her husband, who was the Captain of the Tulsa Fire Department at the time. Mitch relayed the news that two planes had been flown into the World Trade Center buildings, and that our country was under attack. We all began crying and praying, and parents began showing back up to take their children home early, not knowing what the hours and days ahead would bring. We each questioned if this was only the beginning of an all-out worldwide attack.
If this was the end, we just wanted to be with the ones we love the most – our families.
As Oklahomans, we were particularly cognizant of the sobering reality that no place is safe from a terrorist attack. We’d all lived through April 19th, 1995, when the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. I’ll never forget seeing teachers at the school where I taught, gathering around a small television… and everyone was weeping. One hundred sixty-eight people were killed that day, including nineteen children who were in the daycare center on the bottom floor of the building. On the one-year memorial anniversary of the bombing, our school, like so many others across the state of Oklahoma, planted new trees to commemorate the day — and show our solidarity that we, as Oklahomans, would go on. As the music teacher, I was privileged to lead the student body in singing our state song, “Oklahoma”, the old spiritual, “All Night, All Day [angels watching over me, my Lord]”, and “America, the Beautiful”, outside near the trees we’d just planted. It was a moment and a feeling forever etched on my memory.
Fifteen years ago today, September 11, 2001, just as we ‘d turned on a television at the preschool to see the news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings, my husband called. He had just left from a meeting with three deacons at the small church where he served as bi-vocational pastor for the previous six years. I played the piano and helped lead worship there, too, and two of our children were born during our time there.
My husband was in tears as he spoke, and not just over the attacks on our country (as if that wasn’t enough). The deacons were asking us to leave the pastorship – “firing” my husband, as it were. My husband had recently shared his suspicions with some of the church leaders that one of the deacons was stealing money from the church offering every week, but no one believed him. Now our family was under attack– while our country was under attack. We just couldn’t cry enough tears that fateful day.
Two weeks after we left that church, they discovered that our suspicions were correct about the missing money and the suspected thief. They subsequently removed him from the office of deacon, and forbid him from handling money thereafter. It was a very heartbreaking time for everyone involved. For years, we’d served in that church during difficult times, but vowed not to leave until God told us to leave. So, as we grieved with our nation over the shock and horror of the attacks suffered in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., our family was personally crushed by attacks from humans closer to home.
So, what do we do, when our families, our marriages, our country, our sense of safety and peace, are attacked? What do we do when our hearts are broken, our trust and friendships betrayed, and when fear and tragedy strike? As a Christ-follower, I have this hope, as the Apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to write in 2nd Corinthians Chapter 4:
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed …
16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2nd Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18)
Psalm 37 reminds us:
“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”
God’s timetable is rarely the same as ours. But His Word, His promises, are certain. Our hope and assurance is that God is a righteous Judge, and that we will each give account to God of our actions when we meet Him.
May God comfort all who’ve been attacked by bombs, guns, drunk drivers, murderers, terrorists, betrayal, or any other thing on this earth.
I am so thankful that none of those things will exist in Heaven. No more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor parting. No good-byes. No betrayal. No cancer or heart disease. No broken hearts. For God Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes, as Revelation 7:17 says. So be it. Amen! I love the old hymns about Heaven. Here’s the Unclouded Day Medley, from my newest album, “Before the Throne: Worship & Hymns”.