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September 11th: Seeing Everything

September 11th, 2008

I detour from our standard Daily Thread format today to reflect upon a date that is also an event: September 11th.  This day has defined the worldview of the current American generation.  As a student of history, I doubt that the average “younger” American grasps the significance of how this day changed the course of our culture.  For a moment, let’s take a look at a day that will live in infamy in our history books forever.

I was student teaching in a middle school on September, 11th, 2001.  My role that day was really more “observer” than teacher.  I’ll never forget the moment that a teacher told us to turn on the television.  On that small, classroom monitor mounted inconspicuously in the corner of the room, we (along with the nation) beheld a horrible image.

The first plane’s impact was obvious from the clouds of smoke and debris.  News anchors were speculating on whether or not this was an accident.  Then, the emergence of a second plane onto the screen confirmed our worst fears and sealed the fate of thousands of innocent victims who were desperately trying to evacuate the World Trade Center towers.

To my dismay, one of the middle schoolers in that class shouted out, “Cool!” After a stern rebuke from the teacher, he piped down.  Was he unpatriotic?  Did he have no feelings?  No, he was a fading reflection of what our children used to be like before this disaster.  The concept was so foreign to him and his security was so certain that he wasn’t yet connecting the event on the screen with reality.  In his mind, it was just another movie explosion made realistic with special effects.  It was just another video game.  

But he was wrong.  This was no game.

The images are still fresh in the minds of most Americans.  The largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in our nation’s history shook the foundations of our confidence and tested the strength of our unity.  The economy took an immediate hit as consumers fearfully locked themselves indoors and avoided trips to the store.  The college football and baseball seasons came to a halt as games were postponed for fear of the unknown.  Our nation reeled in shock.

This generation probably doesn’t quite comprehend the impact of the media on an event like September 11th.  Unlike the few black and white images we have of Japanese airplanes bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941, Americans viewed literally thousands of images from all angles and from all viewpoints of the carnage of these attacks.  From the planes striking the buildings to people leaping to their deaths to many grueling months of dangerous recovery efforts, we saw everything.

Seeing everything has a profound effect upon one’s psyche.  Just ask a dad who waited in the waiting room versus one who witnessed the delivery of his child.  In this day and age, we see everything.  Communication is more efficient and more readily available than ever.  My iPhone allows me to ascertain through GPS my own location or the location of my other “iPhone” friends with the touch of a button and with the advantage of satellite imagery.  We want our eyes to be opened to everything.

History is filled with images of atrocities that no camera was present to capture. Millions have been slaughtered . . . in your very lifetime . . . in genocidal campaigns in Africa.  Eastern Europe is constantly plagued with political and social instability.  Poverty and starvation are rampant on multiple continents in our world.  Even here at home, homelessness, drug addiction, and violence are mainstays of our society.  We may not see these images as clearly as the images of September 11th, but God sure does.

So today as we remember those terrible images that we saw some seven years ago and that we still see today on our televisions, I encourage you to make sure you “see everything.”  You may see the evil plans of terrorists’ schemes, but I hope that you also see the comforting presence of a loving God.  You may see a generation robbed of their security, but I pray that you also see a God who’s hand still holds our eternal stability.  We all see a world filled with evil, corruption, and pain; but may we make it our goal to help that world see a God who’s love guarantees peace and unconditional grace to all who ask.

God sees and He intervenes daily in ways we may never know the extent of.  As we face the future, I pray that our eyes will focus on the only One who has the ability to sustain us.  

God bless all the families of the victims of September 11th and those soldiers who are still waging a war against terrorism.  May His grace be upon you all.

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