Remember is a word that has echoed through the hearts and minds of every American in the past week as we for the 15th time think back to that clear and beautiful morning in September… and we remember! All of us are connected to the events of September 11th 2001 in some form or fashion. May we clearly remember the Ironworkers of New York’s Local 40 members who ran to the site when the towers fell. They pitched in on rescue, then stayed for eight months to deconstruct a skyscraper some of them had helped build 35 years before. An ironworker named Jim Gaffney said, “My partner kept telling me the buildings are coming down and I’m saying ‘no way.’ Then we heard that noise that I will never forget. It was like a creaking and then the next thing you felt the ground rumbling.” Mayor Rudy Giuliani said it was like an earthquake. Peggy Noonan’s son, then a teenager in a high school across the river from the towers, heard the first plane go in at 8:45 a.m. It sounded, he said, like a heavy truck going hard over a big street grate.
May we clearly remember that though time was short, people said what counted, what mattered. It has been noted that there is no record of anyone calling to say, “I never liked you,” or, “You hurt my feelings.” No one negotiated past grievances No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. Crisis is a great editor. Thirty-one-year-old Melissa Harrington, a California-based trade consultant at a meeting in the towers, called her father to say she loved him. Minutes later she left a message on the answering machine as her new husband slept in their San Francisco home. “Sean, it’s me, she said. “I just wanted to let you know I love you.” May we clearly remember Capt. Walter Hynes of the New York Fire Department’s Ladder 13 dialed home that morning as his rig left the firehouse at 85th Street and Lexington Avenue. He was on his way downtown, he said in his message, things are bad. “I don’t know if we’ll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids.” Lastly may we clearly remember that moment when Todd Beamer of United 93 wound up praying on the phone with a woman he’d never met before, a Verizon Airfone supervisor named Lisa Jefferson. She said later that his tone was calm. It seemed as if they were “old friends,” she later wrote. They said the Lord’s Prayer together. Then he said “Let’s roll.”
I love Peggy Noonan’s words… “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. We have seen our national character in eloquent acts of sacrifice. In these acts, and in many others, Americans showed a deep commitment to one another, and an abiding love for our country.”
When we no longer remember we drift, and there is danger in the drift! We tend to drift as a nation when we forget our past. The danger as it has been said is that when we forget our history we are destined to repeat it. May we remember that, Drifting requires no effort. Just stop rowing the boat and you’ll see clearly the danger here. Perhaps that’s why the Hebrew writer warned, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” May we remember that Drifting can be an unconscious process. It is possible to drift and not be aware you are drifting. I remember what Dennis Kinlaw once said. “It is tragic to not know Jesus, but it is more terrifying to picture the soul that thinks they have God and do not!” Lastly, may we remember that Drifting never takes you upstream! You always go down, you never get closer to God as a person or as a nation.
For the sake of our children and grandchildren, for the sake of all who follow in our footsteps and for the sake of what our nation can be… We Remember! Our nations birth certificate closes with these words, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” May we as well pledge ourselves and all that we have within us to the same cause for an even greater nation under God with liberty and justice for all. May those who come behind us, find us faithful! We will always remember, 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.