Flipping back through my 2001 mementos, I found a note I had written on Sept. 11: “Life freezes for Americans. No one knows what is next.”
People across the nation sat stunned, confused and scared throughout that horrific day and for weeks and months to come.
I don’t remember what the argument of the day was for Americans 20 years ago, but I remember how it was quickly forgotten and how the country united over a common enemy.
Our concern and appreciation for first responders pivoted to true awareness that day, and we all grieved for the families whose loved ones died in such tragic ways.
All of our perspectives changed about what was really important in life — and we all found ourselves more focused on our faith, at least for a time.
As life gradually returned to a more routine rhythm, I remember being hesitant about flying. Traveling by plane had never scared me before, but suddenly I was uneasy and knew it was connected to the four planes hijacked in the attacks.
After settling into my seat and securing my seatbelt for that first post-9/11 flight, I whispered a prayer asking for protection as we lifted off.
“Lord, fly in front of us, behind us, to the left, to the right and above and below our plane. Protect us on this flight. Lift us up from here in Birmingham, keep us safely in the palm of your hand until you set us down smoothly in Fort Lauderdale.”
What God did with my prayer and how it played into the events of that uneventful and routine flight three months after 9/11, I can’t tell you, but I do know that reaching out to Him to share my heart and ask for His help calmed my spirit and reminded me that He was with me.
20 years later
Now, 20 years later and right around the anniversary of that day that pierced us all deeply, we find ourselves reeling in pain again from actions by the latest version of extremist groups.
What to do and how, when and where are questions that need answering. Some days I’d love to be sitting around the table helping make the decisions, but most days I’m simply grateful I’m not responsible for making the tough calls in these situations.
However, I’m reminded that I am called to pray for those who are evaluating the intel, discerning who to trust and not trust and attempting to outline a plan.
“Lord, give our country’s military and governmental leaders clarity of mind, peace in their spirit, trustworthy friends and allies, accurate information, extra energy and protection out in the field right now.
“Equip their families and close friends to become a source of strength for them. Remove difficult and unnecessary distractions so they can think clearly and calmly — and toward the greater good, not focused on selfish ambitions or motives.
“And, Lord, for those in leadership who know you, give them an overwhelming sense of you, an assurance that defies understanding, and the courage to let your light shine through them so that those who don’t know you will see it and be drawn toward it.
“And for our brothers and sisters sitting in the most frightening of situations in Afghanistan right now, protect them, cover them and assure them. Saturate them in your peace and let them know we are with them in spirit and are lifting them up to you, Father.
“Walk before them, behind them, to the left, to the right, above and below them.
“Thank you that you are with us through all the difficulties of this life and that we can hold tightly to you even as we journey toward our forever home with you.”