Tuesday, September 11, 2012


"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High,
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty..." Psalm 91:1

I woke up to the phone wringing off the hook. I had decided the day before to take the day off from work. I felt strangely exhausted and just needed a day to rest. This was unusual for me. It was just the beginning of the work week. I was taking off on a Tuesday. Normally, I saved vacation days for extended weekends. But, for some reason I was simply exhausted.

I answered the phone in a haze of sleep to hear my daughter, Christy, who lived just ten minutes away from me, sobbing uncontrollably on the phone. I heard her say something about the Pentagon. The Twin Towers were on fire... Was I dreaming? What was going on? She told me to turn on the T.V. I couldn't do that. It had just broken a few days earlier and I hadn't replaced it yet. Suddenly our call was interrupted with another call from my son asking in a controlled but ominous voice if I had heard the news. All at once it dawned on me. My daughter, Kim, lives in New York and worked in Manhattan, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. All at once I began to scream for my daughter. Where was she? Was she trapped in the middle of this nightmare from hell? They told me they had tried to call her and couldn't get through. The phone lines were all dead. I could not believe what I was hearing. I hung up the phone and headed for my daughter's house. It was only about nine o'clock in the morning on a beautiful September day. Everything had suddenly gone black...

We spent the morning transfixed in front of the television, watching frame after frame of the towers burning, the Pentagon on fire, people fleeing for their lives. All the while, we tried in vain to reach my daughter in New York, to no avail. Like all of America that day, we were in shock.

Midway through the day, my son-in-law called to tell me that Kim had called the school where he and I worked to tell me she was OK. Since I wasn't there, they had gotten him out of his classroom to take the call. They told me later that he had broken down sobbing when he heard her voice. I wasn't able to speak with her until much later in the day. When I did, this is what she told me.

She had been at work at the start of the day, just a few blocks from the Twin Towers. People were waking up, getting their coffee, easing into the day. They were surprised to see what looked like confetti falling from the sky. Laughing that someone had forgotten to tell them there was a ticker tape parade that day, they ran to the window to see the parade. Standing there, innocently searching for a parade that didn't exist, they watched in horror as the second plane flew directly into the second tower.

The loud speaker announced that everyone was free to go or free to stay. It was up to the employees to decide what they would do. Everyone was terrified to stay and terrified to leave. They had no idea what was coming next. Within minutes, everyone decided to flee. To try to get out of the city as quickly as possible. All the transportation lines on the subway had been broken. Cell phone lines had been destroyed. To get out of the city, they had to flee on foot. She was among the thousands of ghost like creatures, covered from head to foot in dust and grime, with terror etched across their faces, fleeing the city that day.

The only way out was across the Brooklyn Bridge. In the midst of the mass exodus across that bridge, she said she looked around. Chasing her down from behind was a tunnel of smoke and dust. In the harbor of the famous Hudson River, war ships had begun to gather. Overhead, the sky was filling with war planes. The people in New York, who were caught in the middle of this tragedy, did not have access to the news reports the rest of us were getting. They had no idea what was going to happen next. My daughter told me they were sure we were at war.

With thousands of people fleeing for their lives across the bridge, someone screamed that they were going to blow up the bridge. It is a miracle that people did not panic, which would have led to the loss of even more lives. Shortly after she made it across the bridge it was closed...

When she arrived home to her apartment in Brooklyn, many miles away from the Twin Towers, she found every inch covered with the grimy dust from the tunnel that had chased them all as they left the city. There was no escaping it. It was everywhere.

Later, she told me the city was a morgue. On every tree there were pictures of lost loved ones, with the heartbreaking plea - “Have you seen _______?” The smell of death was everywhere...

I will never forget the stories she told me about that day. When she came home for a few days shortly after-wards, she lay on the couch, curled up in a fetal position, too numb to speak. She was in shock. There is little any of us can say at a moment like this. Our words are empty. In that moment of overwhelming grief and sadness, I read to my daughter from the 91st Psalm. In that moment, I felt the presence of the Lord invade my little apartment. To comfort, to reassure, to remind us both that He is here. He sees. He cares. And He is able to heal the unthinkable...

To this day, I cannot go through September 11th without sobbing at the memories of what took place that day. That He saved my daughter from the fire, quite literally, is something I will never forget. For the many, many thousands of family members who wept for loved ones that never called, never returned, my heart aches. You are in my prayers always.

May God be our comfort, our refuge, our strength. May He forgive us our sins as a nation. May God bless America. Land that I love...

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