As the beer began to flow the stories started.
My memories of September 11 were painted by television footage, radio interviews and painful memories of loss and anger. But as I sat at a bar a few blocks from the footprint of the World Trade Center I heard things that no man should know or remember. Stories of seas of shoes, the anger that was borne over recovery efforts, bucket lines, paper, smoke, clouds of despair, the sounds of people jumping to their deaths, buildings still standing that were forever ruined in the aftermath of terrorism, and of men who once guarded one of the world's greatest buildings and now guarded a hole in the ground from an office in a trailer.
A series of events after Sept. 11th led to a friendship with a NYC cop and a Port Authority officer. Those friendships beckoned me back to the city and to a giant hole. Days before our arrival they had finished the excavation of the site and were now doing what Americans do best -- rebuilding hope and chasing progress. Even the wild anger of mad men and the unfathomable sorrow of loss weren't stopping the American spirit. Hearts would beat again, trains would run, life would be lived...hope still reigned.
There is no doubt that day changed the lives of most Americans -- be it the loss of life, the loss of a feeling of security, the reality of hatred in the world, or something else. We all carry away scars. And while admittedly I don't know the glory that will befall God from this tragedy I can tell you something that has happened in my own life.
I am thankful. I am more aware of the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday; be it around the block, across town or miles away. The first responders carry a burden that often goes unnoticed in the mad rush of life today. Now, as sirens blare or lights flash, I pray. Father, protect them and those they are going to serve.
In the Culpeper community tomorrow, September 12th, there is an opportunity to say thank you in person. A Community Event for Culpeper, southern Fauquier, Orange, Madison & Rappahannock Counties Honoring our Firefighters, EMS, Law Enforcement & First Responders -- Code: Honor. Even if you aren't local, take a moment to visit the website and leave a thank you message for a local hero.
I honestly don't know the good that has come out of September 11 in the lives of those who stood among the rubble and searched for signs of life and death. Those men who I drank with, I know there lives have forever been changed and they might not ever be "okay" again. I pray that God will use them mightily and let them learn to rest in His peace. There are a lot of questions I have about that day and while I likely will never get to ask God or hear the answers there are a few things I do know...that He has showed me.
Whether or not we ever bring the mad men to our justice God will bring them to His. The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:7-9
Hate is not to be in me. If I turn the anger and hatred toward the men that hate us where will I be? Angry. Fighting. Fearful. Bitter. No, it is not ours to hate. Daily I choose to turn that energy to God and ask Him to work in the lives of those that would destroy our nation founded on freedom in Him. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45
Hope will always survive. I was made to put my hope in a Creator who chose to love me. He will be forever and so will my hope. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5
So, friends, today my banner of hope flies; even as my heart remembers the ache of eight years ago. I am thankful for the stories of survivors, rescues and hope. I am thankful for the men and women who chose that day (and every day) to serve. I pray for those who carry scars from that day, who live loss everyday; I pray that You are their hope Father.