For the man who kissed his wife goodbye for the last time, for the wife who called her husband from the plane to say I love you, for the fireman who ran up the stairs with no promise of ever coming back down, for the office workers who helped rescue friends and colleagues and yet perished themselves and for the hundreds of examples of American heroism… We will always remember, we will never forget! When people talk about it… September the 11th, It was the most beautiful day of the year.” It was. Clear, stunning, cloudless skies, warm but not hot, a breeze. It was beautiful. That was one of the heartbreaking elements. And when it began, everyone was doing something innocent. It was a fall morning in America workers were getting coffee and parents were taking their children to school. Those of us who were not in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon or nearby, those of us who were not among the terrified victims on the planes, those were not heroic firemen and tough cops are only able to allow ourselves to imagine their experiences… When a NYC reporter Dick Oliver was asked how it was that so many firemen died, couldn’t they have escaped, and he said, with a rough voice that had love in it, “Firemen don’t run out of buildings. Firemen run into buildings” May we never forget!
It was a beautiful morning and I was to make a few hospital visits before going to my office. The Today show was on, I had a cup of coffee in my hand and Matt Lauer had just interviewed Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric. As he got the info in his earpiece we all became glued to the television, who knew we’d stay that way for hours! At 8:45 as I watched TV we saw the first explosion, and the breathtaking telephone report of a terrified man who had seen, he said, a big plane fly straight into one of the towers. “Oh my God,” he said over and over, and it was like hearing the first report of the Hindenburg. I was still watching when something—I thought it was a helicopter—hit the second tower and it blew. And then minutes later, the Pentagon. I’ve heard it’s how we remember, it starts with something big—the first news report, the phone call in which someone said, “Turn on the TV.” But then they go to the kind of small thing that when you first saw it you had no idea it would stay in your mind forever. Like the Xeroxed signs that covered every street pole downtown NYC. A man or a woman in a family picture from a wedding or a birthday. “Have you seen Carla? Last seen Tuesday morning in Windows on the World.” Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered. No one said, “I never liked you,” or, “You hurt my feelings.” No one negotiated past grievances No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. As Peggy Noonan said, crisis is a great editor!
People are often stronger than they know, bigger, more heroic than they’d guess. Men and women who began their day at a desk or in an airport, busy with life. Passengers who defied their murderers, and prevented the murder of others on the ground. Men and women who wore the uniform of the United States, and died at their posts. Rescuers, the ones whom death found running up the stairs and into the fires to help others. In these acts, and in many others, Americans showed a deep commitment to one another, and an abiding love for our country. We simply cannot afford to forget!
Steve Green wrote… “May those who come behind find us faithful…May the fire or our devotion light their way, May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe, And the lives we live inspire them to obey…. Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.” Whether they do or not will be decided by us. You see, it’s up to you, it’s up to me! Standing atop the rubble of ground zero, President George W. Bush with a bullhorn in hand spoke to the brave men and women risking their lives searching for survivors. When one rescue worker shouted… “I can’t hear you!” The president replied… “I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” And they did! What occurs to me is that we as Americans must continue to hear this challenging chapter of our nation’s grand history. The story of bravery, heroism, courage, patriotism and an undying trust in the God of heaven for His blessing! These words still ring true today, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” We will never forget!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.