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Where Were You?

by Holly Capp • ELCA School Counselor

“Be strong and courageous…He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” ~Deuteronomy 31:6-8

September 11, 2001 – Where were you? What were you doing, thinking, feeling? I bet you can answer each of those questions in great detail. What about your prayers as the grim truth became painfully real? For me, I was a stay-at-home mom with a newborn and 3 year old. Today, I wonder if my innocent boys felt me trembling with fear that morning or if they saw the tears fall from my face. I wonder if they recall that I held them extra tight that day and the days that followed. For a brief moment that morning, I felt the anguish that would become reality for almost 6000 other families as they were notified that their loved one had either died or been injured. I was listening to Atlanta Talk Radio and only heard that a plane had hit a building. I wrongly assumed it was an Atlanta building, so when I couldn’t reach my husband, my heart grew very anxious. As that morning progressed, my panic for my family resolved but my panic for my country took root. One of the most eerie memories from that day came at dusk. My husband and I stood on our deck looking at the night sky and hearing the silence. Every night before then, we would stand there and see planes lined up like a constellation waiting to land. We would also hear the hum of their engines. That night, though, the sky was dark and the only sound was military planes protecting our airways.

Certainly, we were all left with many uncertainties that day. We questioned God and wondered what the future would hold. Would we ever heal? Had life as we knew it vanished? Eighteen years later, it is probably safe to say that we have settled into our “new norm” and that in many ways, we have indeed healed. “Life as we knew it” most definitely vanished, never to return, but our society became functional again, and maybe even prosperous again. For good or bad, 9/11 has become a historical marker, with today’s youth only knowing about it through what they read. They are ignorant of the pain that we suffered and the torment that lingered. But, unbeknownst to them, their world also changed that day. They would grow up with things that didn’t even exist before … things such as Full-time School Resource Officers, Active Shooter Drills, Mandatory Metal Detectors, and Clear Bag Policies. Our classrooms are now locked, our parents no longer roam the hallways during the academic day, and our youth practice “sheltering in place” on a regular basis.

Yes, the future did change that day. Eighteen years later, we are all confident of that. But, one thing has not changed. You see, that bleak day in 2001, many of us were on our knees petitioning our Savior, our Bedrock, our Almighty Father to protect our families, to show Himself mighty, to comfort the broken hearted, to redeem His people, to use this great evil for good, to help us to trust in His sovereignty, to protect our homeland and so much more. We were relentless in praying, but it wasn’t just those “crazy Christians” praying … it was everyone. Most of us remember the image of Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol that dreadful evening and spontaneously singing God Bless America.

God is good and He is the stabilizing force in any trauma. We rest assured that He did not leave us on Sept 11, 2001 and He has not left us now. If He did, then Deuteronomy 31:6-8 would not have been penned. In those verses, He says, “do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. I will never leave you…be strong and courageous.” America learned to be courageous again, and our children are growing up to be strong, just as earlier generations have. On September 11, 2001, our world changed. However, 9/11 nor any future tragic event will ever change our God.

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