Who among us can forget this day eight years ago? It was a lovely late summer/early fall day across much of the nation. We were going about our daily routines and then we began to get bits and pieces of news. Many of us went from our computer to the television and sat almost transfixed for the rest of the day. It seemed like everything came to a halt. The only comparable day in my lifetime was the November day in 1963 when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. The days which followed were sobering. We reflected on life and freedom and asked, "Who would want to kill innocent Americans by flying passenger planes into buildings?"
We were deeply moved by the suffering and the loss. We were also deeply moved by the acts of courage that led many to die in the process of trying to rescue others. We were even deeply moved by the actions of the president, even though it did not take long for the old ways to return. It seemed, at least for a few days, we were all Americans and this is what really mattered. Even churches had a spike in attendance, though this too declined within a few weeks.
Looking back, from the perspective of eight years I ask myself some questions about this historic date.
1. How could we have been so blind to the potential of such a terrorist attack on the United States? We had already been attacked outside the U.S. and the Twin Towers were attacked in 1993. Yet we took an out of sight out of mind attitude. 9/11 changed all that. The world shrunk and Americans entered the 21st century in a way they never imagined before 9/11.
2. Where did all our collective piety and prayer go to? Are we a religious people who turn to God in crisis but forget him almost as quickly? It surely seems so.
3. What happened to our commitment to fight radical Islamic terrorism? Did the war in Iraq divert our attention or focus it? What about Afghanistan? Is the fact that we have been eight years without an internal attack in the homeland a sign that the "war on terror" has actually made us safer?
4. Is it only a matter of time before we are attacked once again? Will the next attack be much more dramatic and more likely to kill many more people that 9/11? How shall we prepare and will this make any difference at all?
I have opinions and I am sure you do too. I am quite sure that some of my opinions are wrong, though I am not sure which ones. I will change them if I see that they are wrong. I know that I do not have access to the information that the president and our military have so in the end all I have is an opinion based on what others tell me.
What I am sure of is that 9/11 changed us. How long lasting the change is I am unsure. I do not look to such terrible events to awaken us as a nation. 9/11 proves, so far, that such events do not lead us to make massive corporate changes in our lifestyle. We will go on as we are unless God awakens his people to be the church in the midst of a Western nation that continues to pursue hedonism and consumerism as its greatest goals in life.