by: Rich Vaughan
For my parents’ generation (the “Greatest Generation”) the date was December 7th, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the USA entered in WWII. For my generation the date will always be September 11th, 2001. It is hard to believe that it was 19 years ago today. It is hard to believe that kids in college have no memory of this event. It is ancient history for them. In fact, for anyone under the age of 30 that is also probably true, and for some in the 30-40 age range it is just a vague memory. I was the pastor of Raeford UMC, in Raeford, NC. on that day. I was in my office when American Airlines flight 11 hit the North Tower at 8:45AM. At that moment almost everyone including myself and my church staff thought, what a terrible accident. What had happened? Had there been engine failure, hydraulic failures etc.? When United Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower at 9:03AM, everyone realized these events were not accidents. Of course, 37 minutes later, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:40 AM, we knew we were under attack. The final event of that day occurred about an hour later when the passengers of United Flight 93 made a heroic effort to seize control of their plane as it crashed into a field in Somerset, Pa. By 10:28 both towers had collapsed as had a section of the Pentagon.
Everyone aboard all 4 planes had been killed as well as almost everyone in the 2 Towers and many in the section of the Pentagon that was hit. 2,977 people were dead. The events of that day will touch so many lives for a long time. There will be stories on heroes from first responders, to passengers on airplanes, to office workers who realize they are probably not going to survive. There are stories of faith, like Al Braca, a corporate bond trader for Canton Fitzgerald who worked on the 105th floor of the North Tower. In his last hours of life, he called his family to tell them he loved them and then he gathered his office coworkers and prayed with them and led many of them to Christ (This was collaborated by last phone calls made to family members by Al’s coworkers who talked about Al and his prayer and witness). You may not believe it if you have no memory of 9/11/01, but even politics disappeared for a short time. There was a scene during this time of Democrats and Republicans gathered on the Capitol steps singing, “God Bless America”. There were no black or white issues, everyone was helping everyone.
Perhaps the most powerful lesson from 9/11 was not being better prepared or tightened airport security. It was that in the end all that matters is love. Almost everyone on the planes or stuck in the towers, realizing they were probably not going to survive, did not call to check on sport scores, or stock prices. They called friends and family to say goodbye and to tell those friends and family members how much they loved them and for their friends and family to go on living a full life. There were tears but above all there was love.
Erma Bombeck, when she found out she had terminal cancer, wrote a final article entitled “If I Had My Life to Live over”. One of the things she said is that if she could live her life over again “there would have been more I Love yous”. This is what the victims of 9/11 understood and shared. Take a moment today and remember. Whisper a prayer for all those affected by this day and then go tell a dear friend and/or someone in your family today that you love them. In doing so you will honor those whose lives ended 19 years ago on September 11th, 2001. You will also, in the midst of 2020 and all its issues, make your home, your community, and your nation a better place and that is perhaps the greatest way we could honor those who died on 9/11/ 2001. Amen & Amen.