Attacks revealed American spirit

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sept. 11, 2001, is a day the United States will never forget. It is the day when terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes and caused the greatest loss of human life on U.S. soil in the nation's history. Two of the hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City, a third crashed into the side of the Pentagon, and a fourth ended up in a Pennsylvania field thanks to the bravery of the people onboard the plane. In all, 2,749 people died that day. Among the dead were office workers, corporate executives, firefighters, police officers and other emergency responders who were on scene doing their job that day when the Twin Towers collapsed and trapped them in a cage of twisted metal.

The images of 9-11 have remained with me, and at times, haunted me over the past five years. In the days leading up to five-year anniversary of the tragedy on Monday, those images were rebroadcast, and the emotions those pictures evoked were just as strong as they were on that Tuesday morning in 2001.

A large number of area residents attended a 9-11 Memorial rally held Monday at the Barry County Courthouse in Cassville. This is the fifth time Janice Varner and Vickie Easley have organized such a rally with the first one held on Sept. 14, 2001, three days after the 9-11 attack. This event gives local residents an opportunity to remember those who lost their lives in the 9-11 attack and to remember how our country responded and continues to respond since the tragedy.

Over the past several days, I have listened to various news reports and commentaries marking the fifth anniversary of the tragedy. Sadly, many of these programs have focused on placing blame and have allowed the attack to be politicized. One of the best news stories I heard was broadcast on National Public Radio on Saturday morning. This NPR journalist interviewed a man who lost his wife in the collapse of the Twin Towers. The story focused on how this man and his family were able to cope with the loss of a wife and mother. This was the first interview the gentleman had given in the five years since his wife's death and he told the journalist that he did not want to place blame or get pulled into political conflict over the 9-11 tragedy. Instead, this man said he used the kindness of his neighbors and the outpouring of support he received from people he didn't even know to provide him with the inspiration he needed to go on with his life. He described the generosity of the average American citizen as inspiring and hopeful.

A similar sentiment was shared by 2nd Lt. Shawn Moreland, chaplain of the Missouri National Guard's 203rd Engineering Battalion based in Springfield, during Monday's 9-11 Memorial in Cassville. In fact, this young man's reflections on the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy were among the most comforting I've ever heard. His remarks focused on the acts of courage performed by ordinary people in the wake of the tragedy. He also spoke about how the presence of God was displayed through the loving kindness of His people as they ministered to the hurt and grieving.

As with all tragedies in life, with time, one is able to look back and see blessings amid the tears and pain. For the United States, the attacks of 9-11 pointed people back toward God. The only way to make sense of death and destruction is to believe in a God who promises to walk with you through the valleys, to be by your side in the dark of night when the tears won't stop, to give you a peace that transcends all understanding and allows you to make it through one day and then the next.

The love of God was displayed through the American people in the days and months and years following Sept. 11, 2001, and as God promises, what Satan meant for harm was used by God to bring about love and goodness and kindness in our response to the tragedy. The American spirit is alive and well, and those deadly terrorist attacks five years ago only served to ignite a fire of patriotism and love of God and country that will now be impossible to extinguish. That spirit was on display Monday morning in Cassville as I'm sure it was displayed in cities and towns across the nation. This is a time to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and it's also a time to revel in the knowledge that we live in a free country where blessings still abound and hope is always there on the horizon.