Where were you?
I was standing at my crossing guard post, wearing my orange vest, holding my orange flags, waiting for the children. The sky was a spectacular September blue, air dry and beautifully cool. A day when I should pay the city to work as a crossing guard, instead of them paying me.
A little boy and his mother hurried toward me, a child I crossed every day, a mother I chatted with every day. They weren't smiling. "I was watching the news while we ate breakfast", she said. "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, and then, while they were showing that, another plane crashed into the other building, just a few minutes later!"
"Wow! That's so strange!" I responded. " The second plane's pilot must have been gawking at the first accident. That's just incredible!"
But the mom was shaking her head. "I don't know-I don't think it could be an accident."
But it was time to cross them. Then, after the last bell rang, I jogged home and ran down to the family room, calling out to my oldest son, "I've got to see the news. I heard there was some accident at the World Trade Center where planes flew into them!"
I flipped on the TV. There was footage of something burning heavily. Matt joined me. "That's the Pentagon!", we both exclaimed at the same time. "This can't be an accident. It must be an attack," Matt said. I was still processing the incomprehensible idea that our nation might be getting bombed by some enemy-but who? News reporters, speaking in flustered, rapid fire phrases, read from memos pouring in that there might be more, more planes headed for targets in the nation's capitol-wait, did all this damage to the Pentagon come from a plane? The picture returned to the scene at New York, two towers billowing black smoke into that also-perfect September blue sky. And then, as we watched, the anchorman's eyes widened and he began to shout "Where did it go? Where is it? It came down! Oh, my God, one of the towers just came down! There must be thousands of people killed!" I had never seen the national news network people break down, become human, respond with unfeigned emotion. A female TV journalist eventually stumbled onto the set, powdery dust masking the navy-blue professionalism of her suit. "I was just out there, I had to run, an officer pulled me to safety, or I would have died!" And she burst into tears.
We watched, riveted, the rest of the morning. Another plane was down, in a field in Pennsylvania. The second tower fell. The FAA was grounding all flights. Trains and buses were halted. Border crossings were closed. Fighter jets were scrambled-we heard those, roaring overhead, reassuring and yet not. On the TV, doctors and nurses paced outside of New York hospitals, waiting for the wounded, wondering why no one came. Locally, a call went out for blood donors.
Matt was trying to pack for his move to Northern Baptist Seminary, and watch the news at the same time. At one point, watching rescuers load the injured from the Pentagon into ambulances, he exclaimed "I'm not going to Seminary! I'm going to enlist in the Air Force!"
An honorable sentiment for a 22 year old. I talked him out of it-knowing it was just the emotion of the moment.
About noon I walked outside into my back yard. The day was so perfect, with it's cloudless sky (plane-less sky), it's gentle breeze, it's warm buzz of September insects. I should not have been hearing the insects at mid-day over our busy street's traffic roar. But there was no traffic. All was as still as if we lived miles out in the country. Everyone was inside, riveted by their TVs.
Three days later, we drove Matt up to the seminary. It was not an easy time to move away from home. He and his dad drove the U-Haul, while I drove the car. Another perfect September day, the sky an enormous azure bowl over the expanses of dun-colored corn stalks. I noticed that harvest was starting-I could see the dust rising from the distant combines. And, in every farm yard, flags. Even in the busy harvest season, no one was forgetting.
In a way, it's hard to remember what it was like before the attack, because we've changed, everything has changed, so much. We think differently now, about who we are as a people, how we feel about our safety. We've been united, then divided, by how to respond.
While we were living out all this at home, our third son, Paul, newly arrived at a Youth With A Mission base in Arkansas, was experiencing it among his new friends. A few days after the attack, while all of us were still struggling with the emotions produced by it, Paul helped set up a venue in Springdale, AK, for a Twyla Paris concert. Ms. Paris performs there every fall as a benefit for her hometown high school music program. That evening, she walked out on to the stage and sat down at the piano, and proceeded to play the powerful, driving worship song she had written-"God is in control. We believe that His children will not be forsaken". And she ministered to her wounded audience through the medium of music.
This blog is about life as worship. There are times when it seems that worship is the furthest thing from our hearts and minds. But with David the Songwriter we must say "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!"