On that fateful morning of 9-11-01 our nation stared evil in the face and lost 2,977 innocent American lives in the process as we witnessed the horrific scene of the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. Four planes were hijacked by Islamist terrorists; two plowed into the WTC towers, one into the Pentagon, and another–probably headed for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.– crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
Where were you on September 11, 2001? You could probably answer immediately. Part of our God-designed humanness is marking significant events, memorializing, remembering, like Samuel did after God miraculously delivered the Israelites from the Philistines. He “took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer (the stone of help), saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us’ ” (I Sam. 7:12). On this 20th anniversary of that dark day in our nation, patriots remember those we lost, their families and friends, and the heroes who rallied to rescue survivors.
While most remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963 or on that January day in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after lift-off, or when terrorists attacked high-profile buildings on 9-11-01, many have asked the question: “Where was God?” If God is all-powerful, and all loving, why didn’t he prevent these tragic events from taking place?
God does love us and God is sovereign, but we also live on an earth that is suffering the consequences of sin and as a result we have evil and war and natural disasters. Could God stop all this? Yes! And one day He will, but in His time, not ours. And in the midst of it all He is doing some amazing things, for which we need to set up Ebenezer stones of God’s mercies that have always risen from the ruins of the lives of His people, even from the rubble of 9/11.
This month’s Anchor Devotional from Haven Ministries relates some of the amazing stories that came “out of the rubble” of 9/11. “George Slay worked on the 91st floor of the North Tower. When he felt the first plane crash just above his office. He dove beneath his desk as the building shook and everything began to disintegrate. He prayed and prayed to God to save him. He and others went down a stairwell, and once at the bottom, were caught up in a cloud of dust and debris from the explosion. He would learn that no one on floors 92 and up made it out alive. George knew powerfully that day that God is our ever-present help, the One we cry out to when the earth seems to be crumbling around us (Psa. 46:1,2).
Janelle had visited The Brooklyn Tabernacle church in New York City where several times she had heard Pastor Jim Cybala share the Gospel, but she wasn’t ready to give her life to Jesus. Then came 9/11. “She worked on the 50th floor in the WTC. Escaping down the stairs with a crowd of people, she stepped out around the 8th floor to take off her high-heeled shoes. As she did so, the North Tower collapsed, killing all in that stairwell, but somehow sheltering her alongside of it in a pocket of air. She was rescued 27 hours later. Janelle spent those 27 hours praying to the God she’d been keeping at bay” and finally surrendered her life to Jesus Christ.
“A Calvary Chapel pastor in Old Bridge, New Jersey, Lloyd Pulley noted that there were 15 people in his congregation who worked in the WTC on 9/11. Remarkably, each one of them had a story of why they were late or were not at the WTC that day 20 years ago.” In the days following, Pastor Pulley and several from the congregation set up in Union Square to listen to and pray with people, ministering to thousands of New Yorkers who were hungry for answers and open to hearing the Gospel.
” Army Staff Sergeant Chris Braman was working in the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11. He felt the Lord had been preparing his heart for that day. Previously his faith was incidental. But when he was confronted with death, mass destruction, and the reality of man’s frailty, his knowledge of the Lord became a relationship with the Lord.” When explosions went off all around him, he asked God for strength and for three days helped carry some 63 people to safety.
Then there was the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland that took in 38 diverted commercial planes carrying nearly 7,000 people when authorities closed North American airspace on September 11. For a week, every person in Gander stopped what they were doing to put their lives on hold for strangers. They opened their homes, baked meals, gave rides to stores and contributed bedding and offered encouragement in every way they could, becoming reflections of a God’s compassion for those in need. Because of what He’s done for us, we can extend hospitality to others in need who happen to “land” in our path.
And the list goes on and on! Where was God on 9/11? He was very much at work, bringing souls into His Kingdom and showing His mercy and compassion to those in need. God’s mercy always outweighs evil! “God Is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea (or the towers come crashing down); though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride” (Psa. 46:1-3).