If you are old enough, you undoubtedly remember where you were on September 11, 2001. If you lived in NYC on 9/11 as I do (and still do) that memory is probably even more vivid.
Our day began with a phone call. One of our friends from church called us and told us that a plane had struck one of the “Twin Towers.” She said we should turn on the TV and watch the coverage. “Which channel?” we naively asked. Of course, it was on every channel!
We turned on the TV. Like almost everyone else, our first reaction was, “How could this happen? How could a pilot fly into a building like this? How could he make mistake like this?” But when, just minutes later, another plane struck the 2nd tower, we knew instantly that this must have been deliberate. We were under attack! Later, the Pentagon was hit by another plane. And we would learn later of the heroic story of United Airlines Flight 93. Todd Beamer and a group of courageous passengers gave their lives thwarting an attempt to attack the White House or the Capital Building. But at 9:05 a.m. on September 11, the country was bewildered, confused, angry, and afraid.
For my wife Christine and me, the fear was almost instant. We had three friends who were working near this site. One was actually working in the 2nd tower that was hit (but was the first one to go down). Our daughter was attending elementary school in Manhattan on E. 63rd St. near the United Nations building. Could that building be the next target? Worst of all, very quickly all subway service into Manhattan was halted. Roads were closed. Manhattan was completely closed to incoming traffic. I will never forget the fear, the helplessness, the uncertainty, and the confusion.
For us, our day ended with no personal tragedy. A friend of ours picked up our daughter (and several other classmates). They walked several miles uptown, Then they walked across a bridge into the Bronx (where we live). We picked them up from there, hours after the attack. One of our friends who worked near Ground Zero was unharmed (although he saw and heard both buildings when they fell). The woman in our church who worked in the 2nd tower to be hit (but the first to go down) immediately left her office after the first attack. Messages were being played on the loud speakers telling everyone to be calm and to stay where they were. She ignored the messages, ran down 29 flights of stairs and kept running until she was more than a mile away! This decision saved her life. Two of her coworkers died in the tragedy.
The third man in our church named Paterson was missing all day. We couldn’t get in contact with him (phone service was ridiculous that day). The evening of 9/11 I called a special prayer meeting at our church. We prayed for our friends and loved ones. We prayed for our country. We prayed for Paterson, as we had still not heard from him. As the prayer service was ending, a phone call came through to the church. It was Paterson. He was safe. As you can imagine, the people of our church celebrated!
As I look back on that horrific day 18 years ago, three lessons still stick in my mind.
- Life is a lot more fragile than you think. Make sure your relationships with the people you care about are strong and positive. None of us knows what day will be the last day we say “goodbye” to our loved ones.
- EVERYTHING in our country can change in an instant. It happened before. It can happen again.
- All of us will go somewhere after we die. Make sure you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ so that when you die, you will go to be with Him in heaven. If you don’t know how to get this relationship, please email me. I WILL respond to you.
Final note: I am in the process of writing my 2nd book. In this book I will simply be telling true stories of our experiences living and serving in the Bronx for almost 40 years. I am considering the above articles as one of the chapters. What do you think? Please comment in the comment section if you have an opinion.
Final, Final note (and this time I really mean it!): I will be posting a new article on this website every Tuesday before 5:00 p.m. Check this website out in a week. Or better yet, sign up to be on our email list, and I’ll send you a reminder and a link.
(follow me on twitter @PastorJoeFletch)