Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Can it be 16 years since 9/11 happened? Can it really be 16 years since I was a college freshman?! Everyone remembers where they were when this tragic event took place. I was in my college dorm room getting ready for my day of classes. I had just gotten up and and was getting ready to get into the shower when my suite mate ran into my room.

She said “Is your TV on?”

“No I just got up.” I replied.

She silently grabbed my TV remote and turned it on to the Today show. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were talking about the airplane crash into the first tower. As we stood there and watched the second plane hit. We gasped and fell silent watching in disbelief. Not even sure what we were seeing.

I remember in that moment having so many different thoughts and emotions. “Was it an accident? Couldn’t have been. Two planes. Were there people in there? How many have died? This is a terrorist attack. That can’t happen here. We’re America! We’re the most protected country in the world. Aren’t we? Who did this to us? They are going to pay! This means war! Oh no, war.” The only thing that came out of my mouth was, “Well here comes World War 3,” as I sat down on the edge of my bed. The grief, the disbelief, the illusion that my world was safe, it was all almost too much to take. I didn’t know how to process it. As I continued to watch the towers fell, as did my tears, and everything I ever believed about the safety of my country.

I decided to skip my first class since a lot of students were coming back from classes saying they were cancelled. I went to a Christian liberal arts college, so we had a chapel service three time a week. I loved it. I grew up in a public school and found going to chapel very refreshing to my soul. I was able to take an hour of my crazy busy life and focus on what really mattered to me in chapel. This day was different. I went to chapel seeking explanation, hope, and solace for the events that just stopped our world. President Spence spoke. Even though I don’t remember a thing of what he said I remember it being a full chapel that day. Surrounded by others who were feeling the same things I was feeling. We cried, we prayed, we hugged, and we prayed some more.

The rest of the day was very surreal. Classes were cancelled for two days. Everyone stayed close to a TV to see what would happen next. As the details of the attack came out (4 hijacked planes with 4 different targets), and the stories of heroism started to be covered by the news (First responders how lost their lives in the towers, Flight 93 crashing in the Pennsylvania field, etc.) I remember finding some of my friends from New York and asking if their families were ok. Some were, while others didn’t know for several days if family and friends were safe or lost in the Twin Towers. It was heart-breaking and unbelievable.

I slowly started coming out of the fog of disbelief and realizing this was a wake-up call to our country. We weren’t as safe as we had assumed, and we could use this horrible event as a catalyst for change. I had and still have such pride for my country after 9/11. I watched us come together, support each other and love each other. In the first days after the attack I questioned God a lot. As I saw the response from these “everyday heroes” I realized that what the Bible says is really true, “ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” God used these horrible events for His glory. I saw people become doctors, nurses, fire-fighters, first responders and join the military because of 9/11. They wanted to do more to help. We all did. Several donated blood, while others went to Ground Zero to help with the cleanup and restoration. It was amazing to watch. One event changed the course of so many lives, and a lot of lives for good.

This day is always bittersweet to me. I am still saddened by the loss of life. I want to honor the fallen by living my best life. I find my security is no longer in my country, but in my God. He is my refuge and strength. A very present help in time of trouble. If anything, my faith was strengthened and my love for other deepened from this tragic event. I can only pray that I am a light in the darkness of this world.

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