At 17 years old, you pretty much feel on top of the world. I was nearly 18 year old when the twin towers went down. Three days earlier I had just become pre-engaged to my boyfriend-of-almost-a-year (now husband). I was adjusting to a new school year and hoped it would breeze by quickly, because I hated being in school without my boyfriend who had graduated a few months earlier.
That Tuesday morning, my first subject was Art Major. I had asked my teacher if I could go to the library to print out a picture from a website I created back when I was deeply into HTML/CSS, in which I had my photography on, so that I could do my current project. I quickly printed it out and saw that they had the Television on in the library. I looked and saw smoke coming from one of the Twin Towers. I was confused and didn’t understand what was going on. I thought maybe it was just a fire. No! It was that a plane had hit it. I went back to my class and told my friends at my table what I saw. Right afterwards there was an announcement that there had been a second plane that hit the other Twin Tower. I asked again to go to the library just so I could watch what was being shown on the TV. At that point I saw the Pentagon had been hit, and I remember reading on the bottom of the screen that there was a shooting at a mall in DC, or something. My thoughts were, “What in the world is going on?”
Keep in mind that I live only about 20 minutes from NYC. I walked around the hallways (I got a lot of freedom from my Art teacher) and saw kids running in and out of classrooms towards bathrooms or the office. A girl in my grade was crying in the hallway because she said her mom worked near the towers and she was scared for her mom’s life. A lot of those who did have cell phones (not that many back then) couldn’t reach their parents. Many tried using the pay phone to call their parents who worked in the city too. There were several of my peers with the same story. My mind was reeling in and out. I needed to get out.
A dear friend of mine was going to be driving home and said she’d bring me too or we could hang out at her house. I signed myself out of school after the office confirmed with my mom over the phone that I could go, and realized that I hadn’t even talked to my future sister-in-law to see if she was okay. I went searching out the classrooms I suspected her to be in, but could not see her. She was a freshman and was nearly 15 years old. I wrote her up a quick note and left it where we ate lunch together.
As I was pulling out of the school with my friend in her car, I saw my boyfriend (husband) pulling in with his car. I hopped into his car. I said, “Did you come to get me?” He said, “No, I came for my sister, but I was hoping to see you and was wondering if you were okay.” I said, “Can I go home with you?” He took off of work that day because of everything going on. The tears began to flow. I had held it in at the school, but once with Rob, I couldn’t contain them any longer.
After we got his sister, I grabbed the note I left her, and we headed to a hill at the top of town where we could see the city from. We saw smoke all over the place. It was so surreal. It was right there. It was real even though we weren’t physically there, but we saw the actual smoke.
When we got to Rob’s house, I just cried and cried while we watched the events unfold on TV. I was overwhelmed with shock at people jumping from the buildings. My world seemed to have been shattered. My bubble was popped. There was more to life than I realized. I took a webcam shot of myself with a tear stained face (you can’t see it too well with the bad quality of the webcams of that time). Rob kept cuddling with me and tried to cheer me up (just as he continues to do when I am overwhelmed by things). He was basically my giant tissue and didn’t mind me wiping my snot on him.
Reflecting back on that time, I was filled with worry and fear. I kept asking questions no one had answers to and still have no answers to really. There are so many vague things from that time that are questionable. All I know is that my boyfriend was getting all fired up and preparing to join the military without telling me about it since he was 18 at that point. I was fearful a draft was going to occur and that he’d be sent and killed off in a war. We were all filled with ideas of revenge. We are both so thankful things didn’t go down that path. It is good to forgive.
Even though this was such a real event in my life that really did a number on my heart, since then I have realized that thousands per day are killed because of evil, because of slavery, because of racism, and because of beliefs. Genocide and oppression has happened in many places that many don’t seem to talk about or care much about. My heart breaks when I read account after account of these things happening everywhere. While I once wanted to avenge the slaves and the people killed on September 11 with violence, I realize now that I was not putting my trust in God. I was allowing fear and anger to overtake me. Now I realize that I reacted “humanly” and not as Jesus would have me. Now I pray for those who persecute others and hope that they come to learn of Christ. I pray that I can continue to trust in Him the more that evil shows its face and have no fear because He is with me. He fights for me and those who believe and trust in Him. If my flesh is taken from me, my spirit yearns for those who might harm me or others so they can be filled with grace and know how precious they are even while they give into evil. They too are image bearers of God. They too have the ability to find Jesus through how I love them. We need to learn to live in the Spirit, with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control no matter how hard those things seem to be – because it is so worth it. There is no room in our hearts for bitterness and vengeance.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” -Romans 12:9-21