The rest of the office buzzes while I imagine some nut-job daredevil with a Cessna in a stunt gone wrong.
A few minutes later, another employees shows up for the day. He lives nearby, saw the news that morning and has now brought his television set up to the office; sets it up in the break room.
I try to do some work. There is, after all, work to be done, and I hate to break my routine. I’m online with my friend Sean, who’s at his workplace in a city 1600 miles away, and we’re instant-messaging back and forth as soon as we hear anything new on either end. Keeping each other posted.
There’s a muffled, startled shout from the break room and I rush in to find my coworkers clustered around the television, watching a replay of the second plane making impact.
Then it starts to set in. The magnitude. I become aware that I am watching history, and that life in this country will never be the same.
My son was born twelve days earlier, and later that morning my wife and I take him, along with our toddler daughter, to the doctor’s office for a newborn checkup. No one knows what’s going on; all we know is panic. The doctor’s office is on lockdown–a three-story building and the only way in or out is the front door. We can’t stop talking about the events of the morning, and a fear of the unknown creeps in and settles like a choking fog over our conversation.
That night I stay up until 2:00, 3:00, watching the news, hoping for some clarity, something certain. The only thing that comes is exhaustion, then sleep on the couch as the planes hit the towers on an endless loop.
This is the new world we’re living in.
Seven years later and I’m flying to England to do some ministry. Yes, I’m nervous to be on an international flight on September 11, but it couldn’t be avoided and so fly I must. We land without incident, but the next day I get bad news from my wife back in the States. Our long-awaited international adoption will not be going through. We’ve spent the last three years working to adopt, but the road ends now.
We had started our adoption process prayerfully, and now it was over, cut short suddenly, the opposite result of what we’d expected. We were sure it would all work out. But now?
One year later and our world is completely different. We live in Uganda now, in a small, touristy town near the source of the Nile River. Our friend calls us in the middle of the night and asks us to pray. She’s been listening to the radio and has heard about rioting.
The morning light brings fresh reports, confirmation. Rioting has broken out throughout the capital city–tribal sovereignty viciously colliding with a nominal democracy. The young people of Uganda, voiceless, trying to get international attention. Streets are barricaded. Vehicles set on fire. Robbing. Beating.
The military is called in and starts firing indiscriminately. People are killed.
Radio stations shut down. Journalists jailed and beaten for taking pictures of the scene.
All is chaos.
The theme continues. I am once more a freelance writer, a career choice thrust upon me after having been “discharged” from my brand new job less than a month ago. Exactly three months ago to the day, my wife and I were held at gunpoint in our home and robbed.
Everything is up in the air, and nothing feels settled.
“…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Those words stick with me. They are the promise I cling to in this uncertain world. This place where I have to explain to my children, year after year, reminding them what happened in 2001 and why September 11 is a sacred day in our nation. My kids will never remember the pre-9/11 world. The time when life seemed to feel more stable, more secure. More certain.
But they know the promise of Jesus. So do I.
And isn’t that all I need?