While what seems like yesterday, this week we are remembering the 20th year since the September 11th attacks. Alan Jackson released a song shortly after the tragedy of September 11th. It is titled “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” I’m not sure about you, but I remember clearly the moments of that day. I was in my office at the church meeting with one of our lead Pastors. During the meeting, one of our team stopped by the door and said, “You better go down to the Conference Room, something is happening in New York City.”
And so it began…
What began was a change in all of our lives. An innocence gone. Confusion, despair and grief impacted us all in the short term. Today, life is still far different than before 9/11. Mind you, there is no way my life has been impacted in any way like those who lost loved ones in any of the tragic events of that day. And many serve today in the continued hunt for terror in our armed forces and other agencies.
Where’s the Hope?
Perhaps at that time you remember the feelings of what could be next, mixed with what could we possibly do to help? It was certainly hard in the heartland to process what we could do to help, especially when everything absolutely shut down. It is amazing to think that this major event in our lives is now 20 years past. How will you remember that day this week?
I found a special and very encouraging way as we are remembering September 11th. My wife recommended a book recently. The Day the World Came to Town chronicles the incredible accomplishment of a tiny little community in Newfoundland named Gander.
Land the planes.
You see, Gander is on the flight path of Trans-Atlantic flights. On 9/11, all flights got grounded. When this happened, Gander, a tiny, quaint community transformed into a major city when close to 40 commercial airliners had to land at their emergency/military runway. Thousands of people had to be housed, fed, processed and cared for – out of the blue and literally in the middle of nowhere!
This book shares in-depth, personal, meaningful and heartwarming stories. Stories of how the townspeople, and the people from these flights cared for one another. The book truly made me want to visit Gander someday, as one reporter called the place and people an “oasis of kindness.”
God is good.
God has a powerful way of taking the worst and transforming it. I am reminded that clearly Romans 8:28 does not say all things are good. But it does say:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
In the Ancient Text, we remember Joseph and his mistreatment by his own brothers. Joseph spiraled down through no act of his own in slavery, accusation and judgement, and prison. Yet then he moves up the ranks to be the most prominent leader in Egypt under Pharaoh. So wise as to provide a plan for food during a multi-year famine for that entire region.
When his brothers arrived in his country desperately needing food and resources, Joseph could have responded many ways. He could have retaliated to the max. But instead, his perspective was to respond understanding how God’s hand works over and above evil.
As we are remembering September 11th, the evil acts of that day, and there are evil acts and evil doers, can be transformed. God wins. Hope wins. Grace wins. Faith wins. Mercy wins. Over and over in the book I was challenged by the graciousness and sacrifice of the people in Gander to do their part to meet the people’s need. They gave everything they could of their time, talent and resources to meet the needs right in front of them. And through that, I see all kinds of good at the worst time for us all.
I am so thankful my wife recommended this book to me. There are the deep dive books, documentaries and movies into the nitty gritty details. I have done my fair share of documentaries and the like that look into every detail of the plot, plan and activities of those with evil intent. We must be aware and remember. We must be vigilant. I thank the Lord for those who have sacrificed their lives since that dreadful day to provide for our freedoms and safety.
Yet, this book is an incredible bright spot into the resolve of simply doing good things with all of your heart. It is a glimpse at truly being a good neighbor. How will you remember September 11, 2001? I recommend spending time with this read about the caring community of Gander.