20 years ago this morning, the world changed. You probably remember exactly where you were when you heard the news that a plane had hit the Twin Towers. I certainly do.
For most of us who were adults at the time – and even for those who were children – life can be clearly divided into “before 9/11” and “after 9/11.”
For two decades we have been marking that day with either national days of prayer and mourning, of remembrance, or with Patriot Day. We vowed to never forget, and we’ve honored the innocent lives taken on that day as well as our military men and women who have fought and sacrificed for freedom.
This year, the horrific sights of people jumping from the Towers seem to be bookended by photos of Afghans falling to their death while clinging to the wheels of planes bound for freedom. The U.S. military has officially exited Afghanistan, but many are left behind who carry on the fight. Our grief seems compounded. We are heart broken.
Veterans and their families are asking, “was all the sacrifice for nothing?” Families of those lost on 9/11 may be lacking the closure they had found in knowing that justice would be served. And Americans fear for those left behind and for what is to come.
The events of the last weeks may make it harder to look back on 9/11 – but in some ways, they’ve made it more critical to remember, to mourn … to pray.
We remember and mourn those who lost their lives on 9/11. From the Pentagon to the Towers to those aboard Flight 93, and all of the first responders who lived so well.
We remember the heroes of the days surrounding 9/11 – the firefighters who went toward the blast, the ordinary citizens who did extraordinary things, and the chaplains and priests who stayed to give comfort or last rights.
We pray and mourn for those left behind in Afghanistan. For the contractors, interpreters, and missionaries, we pray for your safety and hope for your return. For the Afghan allies left on the ground, we plead with God for your protection, your lives, and for you to know the presence of the true God in whom you find freedom, not oppression.
We pray for America. We pray that the kinship we find in grief would lead to unity in purpose and the determination to do better.
We remember and honor our military men and women and their loved ones who have sacrificed. The mother who lost a son, the soldier who lost a leg, the children who are growing up without a parent.
And we send a very important message to everyone who served:
Your fight was not in vain. Your cause was just and noble. Our appreciation, love, and support of you has not dimmed. God has seen your sacrifice and will honor it.
We echo the words spoken by President Bush on that first National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001:
. . . We ask Almighty God to watch over our nation and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. We pray that He will comfort and console those who now walk in sorrow. We thank Him for each life we now must mourn, and the promise of a life to come.
As we've been assured, neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth can separate us from God's love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country.
Finally, let us do what we did back then – pick up the phone and say “I love you;” hold our loved ones a little more tightly; offer to join in prayer with those who suffer, mourn, or fear; and trust in God for our future.
We have not forgotten, and we never will.