I was just driving into the church driveway a little after 9am…for a staff meeting. I turned the radio on to hear that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. I sat in the car to listen…and within minutes heard that the second tower had been hit by a second plane. I came in and told the staff… before long the phone started ringing — the pentagon, bombs, terrorism. Someone came and found a satellite news station on our dish… as I walked into the worship room… the first tower began to slowly rumble.
I will never forget that picture. The week was marked by images — snapshots of humanity etched on our minds. A couple holding hands as they jump. The pentagon on fire. A crater in Somerset, PA. Flags all over the place. 88,000 sold nationally by Wal-Mart that day. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace punctuated by the playing of U.S. national anthem. 100’s of people on their knees in prayer at a local church. A midnight prayer vigil on Old Main with well over a 1000 students. Rescuers giving their all for a little bit of hope.
But of all the images that struck me that week, and has stuck with me for nine years… I think it was the image of…a cell phone. People on planes and in buildings; people who knew they were not going to see the end of the day; what did they do? What was their last act? They connected. They called someone they loved.
- – Barbara Olson calling her husband…
- – Jeremy Glick and Thomas Burnett calling their wives, before an attempt to overcome the hijackers…
- – Chris Mills talking to his girlfriend Danielle moments before the tower crumbled…
- – Mark Bingham receiving a final message from his wife, left on his answering machine…
They reached out to connect with people they loved — spouses, kids, friends — someone who could hear their last words. And what were those last words? “I love you. Tell my wife how much I love her. Hug my kids for me. Don’t be sad. Take care of our daughter. I love you.”
What we were given was an intense press-pause moment to ask ourselves questions like, “What is it that carries ultimate value? Is it the twin towers of financial success and upward mobility? Or is it a relationship with someone you love?
Billions of dollars were lost. Businesses damaged beyond repair. Wall Street ground to a halt. The New York skyline was changed forever. But we were reminded that in the end people matter more than possessions, politics or pride.
In the following days — for at least a season — some things became a little less important to us. Who cares if the package didn’t get there on time? Who cares if the carpet has the kids’ Kool-Aid stain on it? Who cares if your portfolio has headed south? Who cares if your roomate isn’t quite as cleanly as you?
For a season of time, we hugged our kids a little longer and a little harder. Wemade some calls that we hadn’t made for a while…because we just needed to their voice. We cried with strangers, and we prayed with friends. We connected.
Do you understand that is how God created us? He created us to connect. To connect with each other and to connect with Him. That’s what I remember…and the lesson still stands.