Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 11, 2011


The 9/11 tragedy put courage and confusion before the eyes of the world


            On that fateful morning we watched with horror as the plans of evil men were carried out. In stunned disbelief we saw innocent people dying in the flames and smoke of crumbling buildings.

            Told that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Centers in New York City, we assumed it was an accident. It had never entered our minds that terrorists would hijack a passenger plane and use it as a weapon of destruction. But we realized it was no accident when our television screens showed us a second airliner flying straight into the other twin tower.

            Both towers were burning. Both would soon crumble to the earth as ugly plumes of smoke seemed to engulf Manhattan. People blackened by the smoke and dust were running in the streets. Then the news reported that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon in Washington. The Pentagon was burning too. Later there was word of even another plane going down in a field in Pennsylvania. We remained glued to our televisions, wondering if we would soon see a plane flying into the nation’s Capitol or perhaps the White House.

            Watching, our emotions ran wild. We were angry at those who had carried out these fiendish attacks.  We were bewildered, unsure how to respond.  We felt compassion for the innocent people who were suffering and dying. Some of us cried; some of us cursed. Most of us prayed, though we were not sure what to ask God to do. We were under attack but there was no way to strike back, no one out there against whom we could retaliate. Our attackers had intentionally died in the same inferno they had created for innocent civilians. Our army, the greatest standing army in the world, did not shoulder one rifle. There was no sniper to find and shoot out of a tree. Our nation and its leaders seemed helpless. It was a terrible, terrible day to be an American.

            Looking back after 10 years, a few conclusions may be helpful. Tragedy can unite people. For a little while, after 9/11, we were all Americans. We were family. We were not white or black or Hispanic; we were not Democrats or Republicans. We were not Baptists, Methodists or Catholics. We were Americans. Our new unity was symbolized by the singing of “God Bless America” at so many public events. We bonded as we sang, reaching out to God together, acknowledging our need for divine help in dealing with terrorism. We reflected on our history, that America was founded with the help of almighty God and that we are not likely to survive these turbulent times unless we as a nation are willing to trust and honor almighty God.

            On 9/11 two things were displayed vividly before the eyes of the world: courage and confusion. The courage of the first responders was remarkable. It will remain an unforgettable example of men and women at their best, willing to lose their own lives in an effort to save others. As Christians such courage reminds us of our Lord Jesus who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The first responders did just that; they sacrificed their lives for their fellow citizens. You could say that the terrorists who flew the passenger planes into buildings had courage. But it was a different kind of courage. They had the courage to die while killing innocent people. It seems a sacrilege really to give the terrorists credit for courage.  Better to call it insanity than courage. This much is certain: the courage of the first responders impacted our lives like few things we have ever experienced.

            That leads me to confusion. The terrorists left an unforgettable example also, a tragic example of warped thinking. To suppose that God is pleased by the killing of innocent people is the epitome of confused thinking. You could have more respect for the terrorists if they had removed the passengers from the planes and then committed suicide by flying the planes into their targets. The monstrous deeds of the terrorists reveal the outrageous behavior that warped thinking can produce. While we are far from perfect, we should thank God for whatever clarity of thinking we have, not the least of which is that life is precious. We value life as a gift of God. Thus people are worth risking your life to save.

            As we observe 9/11 we do well not to complain but to draw lessons from the courageous examples of those we honor today, lessons that can help us live nobler lives. Let us ask for this blessing from almighty God – that he would save us from the confusion of warped thinking and give us such clarity of mind that we will choose to live with courage and honor no matter what evil others may choose. Each of us has a choice: to live as a channel of hate and death or to live as a channel of love and life.

            Ere this day ends take a moment to thank God for the courage of those whose example inspires us to do the right thing, for the right reason, every time a decision is thrust upon us. God bless America!    + + +