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Reflecting on 9/11 nineteen years later: “God’s 911” is still needed today

As seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, N.J., smoke billows from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York
As seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, N.J., smoke billows from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York after airplanes crashed into both towers Tuesday, Sept.11, 2001. (AP Photo/Gene Boyars)

I remember the day well.

I had just dropped off my daughter at her school. The radio station announced a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, but it was assumed to be a small plane and an accident. 

However, by time I got to work, the report had quickly changed. 

It was an attack on America. 

Everyone at the church where I worked was glued to TV screens and watched in horror as another plane struck the other WTC tower, then another hit the Pentagon, and yet another went down in a Pennsylvania field due to the heroics of passengers. 

All were large planes with passengers inside. 

There were no iPhones or smartphones nineteen years ago, so news came only through TV or radio. And it came more slowly. 

But we knew enough to know America was under attack, and we needed assurances. 

A chapel prayer service was quickly organized, and the pastor, Jim Denison, led the staff members and all church workers in a time of prayer. 

We were all shaken, all fearful, all needing a word of hope. 

One of the staff members had a son who worked across the street from the WTC, and we prayed for his safety. 

Another staff member was flying home to Dallas when all air traffic was grounded. 

We would soon learn of others in the church who were affected by the attack. 

One of the tasks I had during those days was proofing and then sending out the daily email articles Dr. Denison had begun writing the previous year (now known as The Daily Article). At that time, it was still done manually, with multiple sendings to accommodate the growing numbers. 

His words nineteen years ago today still ring true today as we face different attacks in our world.

Dr. Denison’s daily email from September 12, 2001

Questions race through our minds and blur our thoughts. How could this happen to America? Who would commit such horrific, cowardly, evil atrocity? How many have died? How many will? What is the future? How will it change?

To these I add one more: Where is God today?

He is as close as a prayer and a Bible. The psalmist cried, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly” (Psalm 102:1-2). And God did.

How can we pray? How should we?

God’s word tells us. Intercede today for the leaders of our nation, asking God for the wisdom and courage they must have. Pray James 1:5 for them: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Pray for the victims and their families, in obedience to Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Intercede for those who care for them: pastors, priests, firefighters, police officers, physicians and hospital personnel, family and friends. 

Pray Matthew 5:14-16 for them: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Ask God to make them light in the darkness of these days.

Intercede for our nation’s protection, agreeing with Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Ask God to guide and protect our nation from further attack, and to strengthen our spirit and resolve. 

And we are to pray for our enemies as well, as Jesus taught us: “I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

Today let’s respond in prayer, claiming God’s word as ours. When you open the Bible and close your eyes, you’ll find God.

This is his promise to you.

Dr. Denison’s daily email from September 13, 2001

A friend pointed out an unusual set of facts to me. The most devastating tragedy in American history occurred on September 11, or 9-11. The series of events on 9-11 culminated at 9:11 a.m.

And so a spiritual “911” is our need: Psalm 91:1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Let’s explore this promise and claim it for our shattered nation and wounded souls.

To “dwell” in shelter is to live there, to abide in that place. A “shelter” is a place of defense, of refuge, of safety. The “Most High” is the Lord God. So when we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High,” we make God our safety.

We admit that we have no other shelter except in him. We surrender every other kind of refuge we might trust, whether our confidence had been in military power, economic strength, or nationalistic faith. We choose consciously and intentionally to trust in the help and shelter God alone can provide. And we continue to trust in his help alone.

When we make this faith decision, we “will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” We cannot stand in a shadow without being close to that which causes it. To be in the “shadow” of God is to be very close to the Almighty himself. We can “rest” there, in peace and security. We can have peace even in tragedy, hope even in sorrow. We can find rest in God’s presence, and only there.

So let’s choose to trust in God to help and harbor us, to shield and shelter us in our pain and grief. Let’s ask him to give us the comfort we can find nowhere else. Let’s rest in his presence, and find his peace.

Any of us can use God’s “911” today.

Will you?