Just saying the numbers “nine/eleven” stirs anxious feelings in my heart. Most of you reading this will remember exactly where you were, who you were with and what you were doing on that Tuesday morning, 11 years ago. I was ironing and watching the morning news. The first plane hit and I stood speechless, watching the footage and listening to the accounts, wondering how such a tragic “accident” could have happened. Then the unthinkable…the second plane hit! I felt my blood run cold with the realization that this devastation was a calculated attack and that “life as usual” may never again exist in America. For thousands of New Yorkers, “usual & normal” was stolen…never to be returned.
While in NYC, a few years ago, we met some of the survivors and relatives. We visited the site of the incomprehensible tragedy. Through photos, construction barriers and revitalization plans, we saw the past, present, and future of “ground zero”. We saw the tributes to the many selfless heroes who sacrificed ALL for their fellow man. We visited St. Paul’s church just yards from “ground zero”. Considered the oldest building in continuous use in Manhattan, it first opened its doors in 1766. Although a few yards away from utter destruction, St. Paul’s incurred NO damage. Miraculously, the life of St. Paul’s church remained solid amidst the ashes.
On that fateful Tuesday afternoon, here in our local community, our church opened its doors for any and all who wanted to pray, or cry, or just sit in a place of peace. Day after day, members and visitors, known and unknown were welcomed. Not one person discussed doctrine, or denomination. Men came in their work clothes. Young parents brought little ones dressed in pj’s. Teens came to pray still dressed in their sport uniforms. Some wept openly, while others sat silent. Time was of no consequence. No one cared about issues that might have seemed important just days before. As all of us tried to comprehend the events of 9/11, one universal prayer was on our lips, “God save America”. Churches all over our nation filled to capacity. Hope and faith believed if we as a nation turned our hearts to God, He would hear and right the terrible wrong.
This coming Sunday (9/16) is National Back to Church Sunday. While in the shadows and the memories of the recent past and in the glaring light of the many difficulties our nation is facing, perhaps “Back to church Sunday” offers another opportunity to join together in prayer. “God, save America.”