It is hard to believe 12 years have passed since the terrorist attacks the morning of September 11, 2001.
Terrorists intentionally crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City.
A third plane crashed into the Pentagon.
A fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers, acting as heroes, stopped the plane from reaching its intended target in Washington, D.C.
Many remember where they when the series of coordinated attacks against New York and Washington, D.C. happened.
Members of the Local 4 family look back at where they were, and how they felt, when they heard the devastating news of the day.
That's still what amazes me about it most, that it was all pulled off by men carrying nothing more than box cutters. Well, box cutters and an eagerness to die which still seems so incomprehensible to me. Yes, sure, I remember sitting at home that morning with my wife Corey watching all of it unfold on television. (It was Corey who surmised sooner than I that we were under attack.) And I remember that sick feeling that came with watching the towers fall and guessing at how many lives were disappearing inside the collapsing steel and concrete. But if you ask me what springs to mind about 9/11, I can't seem to shake the image of a boxcutter and the first picture that emerged of one of those who wielded them, Mohamed Atta.
The leader of the group of hijackers, Mohamed Atta was born and raised in Egypt, then studied in Germany where he apparently honed his anti-western militancy. I can see that picture of him so clearly in my mind -- the short cropped hair, the square jaw, and mostly, the drooping left eyelid that seemed to suggest a dangerous imbalance. To later find that he had spent time here in the United States learning to fly in Florida struck me as ironic and confusing. The irony came in a group of bitter men using our nation's liberties and gifts against us from our liberal travel policies to our flight schools. But I was left confounded as to how someone could hang on to their original galvanizing ire and hunger for blood after spending so much time living among us. Did Atta walk through his Florida neighborhood despising all that saw? Did no outreach of common American kindness (which he surely encountered) penetrate his anger? Was his fanatacism such that he could only feel contempt for the corrosive culture that taught him to fly an airplane? And as he sat on American Airlines flight 11, did he allow himself to look at his fellow travelers? Even if he had convinced himself that the briefcase army of American businessmen were the face of a nation he deplored, how did he contort his thoughts to condemn children to die? Entire families? How does that work?
All of the tragically iconic images of 9/11 and here I am left with a boxcutter and a driver's license photo. But I resent that boxcutter not only for the lives it took but for the little freedoms it has carved out of my life. That boxcutter is why I cannot travel without the uncivilized indignity of undressing at a security checkpoint. And I perhaps I fixate on the hijacking mastermind because I just can't figure him out. We're cut from very different pieces of cloth, he and I. I lived in Oklahoma City when Timothy McVeigh blew up a truckload of fertilizer and fuel oil at the Murrah Federal Building, and McVeigh and Mohamed Atta both sit in close proximity to one another in my imagination, two men who carried far more hatred than love in their hearts. I don?t really understand them.
And for that I am extremely grateful.
I had been to the top of one of the World Trade Center towers many years before the 9-11 attacks. As I got close to the glass and looked down from one of the large windows I remarked to my friend that I'd never seen New York City from that height except when flying in a plane. It was astounding to look down and realize that I was actually standing on a floor!
On the morning of 9-11 among all the cruel images I was watching on TV, I was most upset by the sight of human beings leaping from the burning towers. Having been so near the windows myself, and remembering how far down the streets were below, I felt sick to know that people were so scared of being burned, and needing to breathe fresh air, they had decided to do the unthinkable and instead jump to their deaths.
For years after that day I dwelled on their heartwrenching choice. I would imagine myself in their dire circumstance and try to feel what they felt -- as they pushed off from one certain death plummeting to another.
In my mind I would ask God, "Where were you? Why didn't you intervene? Why didn't you save all those innocent people?" I would ask many times. I would ask at different times. I would ask in anger - often through silent tears.
About two years later as I continued to ask those questions I suddenly received an answer. It was as if someone had cut off the top of my head and poured in a benevolent stream of knowledge. These words came to me in an interior way,
I saved EVERY one.
When we are in horrible trouble and feel as though we might die, it?s not rare to hear
"Oh, my God!" or "God, help me!" or some type of utterance that addresses God and begs him to help us survive. Is that what each victim on that unfair morning thought, or screamed? And did God save each person - not their bodies but their souls?
The towers falling, the planes that crashed that day, thousands of deaths of innocent people it all adds up to what I call -- a "faith buster." That kind of destruction is more than enough to cause many of us to lose whatever faith in God we have.
That is why, I think, God caused a great miracle to happen very near where the towers once stood. A miracle, very likely, the entire world has by now seen or heard: the against- all-odds, safe landing of the US Airways jet on the Hudson River.
When you consider all of the factors that had to intersect perfectly that day: the glider training of Captain Sullenberger, the clear pathway on the water, the non-sinking of the plane though the rear cabin filled with water, God's thumbprint is all over that stunning event. Every person aboard survived - both soul -- and body. Every one.
It could be just coincidence that the plane set down so near Ground Zero. Of the three factors I mentioned that meshed -- there are many more, but they too, could be chance. I believe -- from the birds that caused the U-S Air emergency to the brightly lit location of the plane's final stop - an awesome "faith builder" played out on God's stage that day -- witnessed by millions of us who lived through the doubt and darkness of that clear September 11th.