A 911 for 9/11

by Derrick G. Jeter

On a beautiful New England morning I was driving from Boston to Rhode Island to visit a client. The morning air was crisp and fresh. The sun had just enough warmth to keep the chill at bay. The sky was a stunning hue of blue. It was one of those days that made you wish you worked outside.

That is how the morning of September 11, 2001, began. It ended in ugliness and rubble. And 3,000 of our fellow citizens dead.
My business associates and I became wrapped up in the unfolding tragedy with a phone call. From Chris’ reaction after she answered, something must be terribly wrong at home. “Are you listening to the radio?” the person on the other end of the line asked. No. Turning on the car’s radio we couldn’t believe what we were hearing: two airliners had flown into both towers of the World Trade Center. A few minutes later the radio buzzed: “We are under attack! The Pentagon has just been hit by an airplane.”
Arriving at our client’s headquarters, the lobby was filled with television sets. Hundreds of people huddled around them. We maneuvered our way to see the live feed of the twin towers ablaze, dreadful gray and black smoke billowing against that pristine blue sky. White and silver flecks tumbled from the buildings like snowflakes. Then the unthinkable took place. Gasps! “What is happening?”, “Oh, my God,” rumbled through the lobby. I remember numbling saying, “The building is collapsing.” Shrieks and tears intermingled with the screams and panic we were watching on the television.
Unable to work, we watched, dumbfounded, as the second tower crumbled. Later, we heard the news of a violent plane crash in rural Pennsylvania. And without knowing it then, it was all over.
Driving home out of Boston, on our way to Buffalo, New York, I was struck by the paradoxes of the day: the brightness of the morning turning into the darkness of mourning; the beauty of upper state New York contrasted with the vivid images of ugliness at Ground Zero in Manhattan; the eerie beauty of the night sky without blinking, moving lights. The events of 9/11 seemed unreal. They were . . . surreal.
We all suffered that day. For some the suffering was excruciating. But all lovers of America suffered at the hands of evil that day. We all questioned, “Why?” “Why would anyone do this to us?” “What had those innocent people done that their lives should be snuffed out on that beautiful fall morning?” And, “Why would God allow this?” “Where was God on September 11, 2001?”
A year later, the PBS investigative program, Frontline, produced a documentary, “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” which wrestled with the question of where God was on that September morning. It featured a cross section of New York society including civic workers, professionals, and religious leaders. Each person interviewed voiced a common theme: hopelessness.
But of all the voices that questioned “why?” and found the search for answers futile, the most desperate voice was from Luca Babini, a photographer:
I wish that there was a God that I could access and that it could be proven that I can access him. I wish that God had a telephone number since September 11th . . . it doesn’t have to be an 800 number, either. I’d gladly pay for the call, you know? That’s what I wish. I wish it wasn’t such a big question because in times like this, we need simple answers.
I wish that I could talk with Luca and tell him there is an answer, an 800 number. A 911. You dial it: J-E-S-U-S-C-H-R-I-S-T.
As each anniversary of 9/11 comes and goes, perhaps the rawness of that day will become less sensitive. But questions will continue to gnaw at the soul. “Where was God on 9/11/01?” “Why?” And we who lived through the suffering of that terrible day by leaning on Christ can bring hope to those whose hope has crumbled as surely as the towers. We who have God’s phone number can help others dial it, and assure the hopeless that the call has been paid for by Jesus Christ.

Babini quote: Luca Babini, “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/faith/etc/script.html, accessed 12 September 2002.