Call – Opelika-Auburn News
First Responders deserve to be honored as
The terrible day known as 9/11 resulted
in a new, nationwide respect for the men and women we call “first responders.”
Next Sunday, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, churches across
America will pay tribute to their local first responders. It will be a way of
remembering the uncommon sacrifice made by members of the New York City Police
Our church, Saint James Methodist, has
invited first responders to worship with us and to be our guests for lunch. It
is a small way of saying thank you to the men and women who put their lives on
the line for us every day. This recognition of first responders helps us honor those
who died heroically on 9/11.
Many of us remember watching the
unbelievable horror of 9/11 on television. It was surreal. We were living in an
apartment in Opelika, having sold our home in preparation for my retirement the
next year. That morning I was getting ready to go to work when my wife called
out, “You had better come watch this!”
We were glued to the television screen
for several hours as the terrorist attacks were reported. The Twin Towers had been struck by passenger
planes. At first no one had any idea that the buildings would collapse in ruins
before our very eyes. Another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Soon there
was word of yet another plane going down in a remote area of Pennsylvania.
With everyone in America we wondered
what would happen next? Would the White House be the
next target? Or the Capitol? Who was responsible for
these attacks? Where was the President? Was this really happening? Wild
thoughts raced through our minds.
To escape the inferno in the Twin Towers
some people jumped out of windows high above the street to certain death. My
eyes filled with tears as I watched ordinary people, civilians not soldiers,
suddenly suffering and dying a horrible death. I could
hardly imagine what those helpless people were going through as the final moments
of their lives were engulfed by smoke, burning fuel and raging fire. The
screaming and excruciating cries for help must have been unspeakably
The first impulse of any normal person
would be to run away from burning buildings. Yet we watched as firemen and
policemen risked their lives by rushing into the smoke, fire and falling debris
to bring survivors to safety. Many of them died trying. That day 343 firefighters
and 60 police officers died, sacrificing their lives for others as smoldering
debris rained from the sky. Almost 3,000 people perished as the worst terrorist
attack in American history brought down the Twin Towers.
Some of the first responders who
survived 9/11 have endured severe health problems as a result of the dust and
smoke that gushed from the burning, crumbling buildings. Many have suffered
from respiratory illnesses. They too deserve to be remembered.
It seems ironic that while first
responders are being honored across our nation next Sunday, the first
responders of New York City have not been invited to the memorial ceremony at
ground zero. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for whatever reason, has not invited them
This is the same mayor who has also
banned clergy and prayer from the Sunday memorial ceremony. I suppose the good
mayor thinks it would be offensive to some people to have a Christian pray to
Almighty God during the ceremony.
Mayor Bloomberg evidently has a short
memory. He must have forgotten that on 9/11 when evil was at its worst, multitudes
of Americans turned to God. Everywhere people gathered, in all types of arenas,
they began singing “God Bless America.” The song united us. It helped us
express our resolve to seek God’s help to recover and defend the freedoms for
which so many have died.
Prayers may not be offered at ground
zero Sunday but millions of Americans will be praying. They will be thanking
God for the heroic first responders who sacrificed their lives for others on
9/11. They will be thanking God for the first responders in every community who
are prepared to risk their lives when terrorism rears its awful head again or
when disaster of any kind occurs.
Sunday I will proudly display my
American flag for I do love this land. I will gladly ask God to “stand beside us
and guide us” for I believe he wants our nation to honor him by offering all
people the freedom to worship and live in peace with one another.
will thank God for blessing America in a thousand ways, not the least of which
has been to inspire countless men and women to become first responders who are
constantly ready to sacrifice their lives for their fellow citizens. There are
indeed heroes among us. So we do well to honor them Sunday and to remember with
gratitude those who made the supreme sacrifice on 9/11. + + +