The pediatrician was taking a long time to come into the narrow, windowless room where my wife and I were desperately trying to keep our 18-month old daughters occupied. “Where is he?” we wondered. It was just before 9 a.m. Finally, a nurse came in. “Sorry for the delay,” she said. “Doctor is in his office watching the news. A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.” And so it began.
Less than an hour later, we were in the car heading home. I turned on the local radio news station. We learned that a second plane hit the South Tower, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, and there were early reports of a fourth plane crashing in a Pennsylvania field. What the hell was going on? Why were planes falling out of the sky? It was strange not being able to see a television. I was a local TV news producer and I couldn’t see what was happening. I knew I had to get to the station too, but what would I do there? I began to feel small and insignificant.
We got home and rushed to the TV. The horror of that morning was finally visible to us. We tuned in just in time to see the first tower crumble to the ground. I felt my hands over my mouth. I have never been so scared. Remember the feeling? It was an odd combination of fear, sorrow, and anger. Nothing would ever be the same again. Life had changed forever. I looked at my two daughters who were now playing at our feet, blissfully unaware of evil. I remember thinking, “What kind of a world did we bring them into?” My boss called. Her voice was trembling. “I don’t know exactly what we’re going to do,” she said. “But I need you here.” I hung up, kissed my family, and went to work.
On the way to the station, I flashed back to the previous summer. I was invited to attend a journalism seminar at Columbia University in New York. It would be my first time in the big city. During that trip, I walked into the World Trade Center. I wanted to go to the observation deck to see the entire city, but the line was too long and I decided to skip it. Oh how I regretted that decision now.
Being at work was strange. Our entire newsroom was glued to the monitors watching the national coverage. We talked about the day. We looked at each other differently. We talked to each other differently. There were tears. One producer asked us to gather together, hold hands and pray. Trust me, this doesn’t happen in newsrooms. Looking back, this may have been the first time that I began to realize that God is the only stable thing there is. Everything else can crumble as fast as the towers did on that fateful day.
Ten years have passed. In many ways they’ve been a blur. My daughters, now eleven, are seeing some of the images of September 11th for the first time. Still blissfully unaware of the world’s evil, they don’t understand why anyone would commit such acts. I can’t help them with that. I don’t have an answer. I can tell them how heroic people were that day. How, in big cities and small towns across America, people looked at each other differently. I can describe how quiet it was in the days that followed. I can tell them of the only thing that is stable; what is good. Sadly, they’ll likely see much worse in their lifetime than what we saw on that beautiful Tuesday morning.
The day the world stood still.