Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Although it has been 11 years, I remember that day as if it was yesterday; a day that many of us will never forget.
I remember exactly where I was when news stations began to report about an American Airlines’ plane crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
We had just been dismissed from one of my George W. Truett Theological Seminary classes, which at the time was being held in the education wing of First Baptist Church in Waco, TX. I walked out of the classroom and saw some of my fellow seminarians standing in front of a T.V. watching the news.
As I approached, I saw a tower engulfed in flames and smoke billowing up into the clear sky. As I stood and listened, the reporter recounted the details about American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into the tower. We were all still unclear as to how something like that could have happened. “Surely it was an accident,” I thought to myself. We were all perplexed as we stood in front of the television, discussing what had just occurred and informing other students about the incident as they filed into the room to see what all the commotion was about.
And then it happened.
A second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, with great velocity, violently flew and crashed into the South Tower of the WTC. We were in utter shock.
And then we heard it happened again.
A third plane, Flight 77, crashed into the western facade of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
What was up to that point only speculation had quickly become fact. These were not accidents, but planned acts of terror. America had just been attacked.
As information trickled out about who was behind this and how was this carried out, all of our eyes were glued to the images on the screen of the two towers in New York. We knew that people were dead; not only those on the flights, but also those who were in or near their offices or cubicles at and around the planes’ points of entry.
Office paper and debris were strewn across New York’s skyline like confetti. People could be seen hanging out of windows trying to relieve themselves from the heat and smoke and signaling for help.
Help was indeed on the way in the form of NYPD officers, NYFD fireman, and EMS Paramedics. These brave men and women approached and ran into those burning towers without a second thought, prepared to carry out their job of rescuing and treating as many people as they could.
Our hearts were saddened to hear the reports of people jumping to their deaths and knowing that hundreds of others had already perished from the attacks. Yet we were hopeful, not knowing the daunting problems the firemen were facing on the inside, because the rescue operations were underway.
And then the unthinkable happened.
The South Tower collapsed and then the North, with officers and firemen still inside and people still trapped.
Our hearts sunk as we stood in front of that television screen, watching tons of steel and stone crumble to rubble and knowing that in those moments lives were being lost.
In the ensuing weeks and months, we saw our country pull together to comfort the bereaved, help in the search, rescue and recovery efforts, and serve the hurting.
In the midst and aftermath of all this, the inevitable topic of God and the problem of evil and suffering surfaced.
If God is all powerful and loving, why didn’t He do anything to stop this evil from happening?
It was and still is beyond me and any of us to answer these types of questions dogmatically. Although I do know that God has (and will) sovereignly averted many evil, sinful tragedies (and that He is not the cause of them), I don’t presume to know the mind of God in every situation such as 9/11. But what we as Christians believe and know from what God has clearly revealed to us in the Bible is that He has done and will do something about evil and suffering in this world.
Jesus, God the Son, came to this world in human flesh to deal with the root cause of human evil and suffering: sin. This is why he lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, and rose bodily from the dead. He did this so that you and I, among many things, could be reconciled with God (becoming His children and no longer His enemies), our sins could forgiven, our sinful hearts and eternal destiny could be changed, and our life experiences (both good and bad) would work together for the good, all by turning from our sin and trusting Him.
And one day, when He returns, He will do away with all evil and suffering.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” (Revelation 21:1-5a, ESV)
Jesus is our hope, both in this life and in the life to come.
For those who lost loved ones on 9/11, our thoughts and prayers are with you.