Tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of “9/11,” one of the most horrific single events in American history. Many of us can readily answer, “Where were you?” when we learned that terrorists commandeered three jets filled with passengers and slammed them into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Repercussions continue to reverberate in many ways today, ranging from tight security at airports and public venues to prolonged U.S. involvement in Middle East conflict. Across the nation, our sense of safety and security remains severely wounded, perhaps never to heal. Any new threats of terrorism spikes our collective anxiety level.
But whenever I think of 9/11, I’m reminded of my good friend, Jerry, whose question about that day is, “Where weren’t you?”
Because Jerry should have been in the North Tower, perhaps on the 74th floor where he used to work. A headhunter in the investment industry, he had moved his office to Wall Street weeks before. But his routine was to commute from his home in Bayonne, N.J., ride a subway to the bowels of the World Trade Center, and then take an elevator up to 74. There he would check for mail that might have been left for him, as well as visit with friends, before descending and walking to work on Wall Street.
That morning, however, Jerry was nowhere near the World Trade Center due to a convergence of events some people would consider “coincidence” or luck.
About two months earlier, his wife, Camy, had died unexpectedly of an abdominal aneurysm. She had been Jerry’s “right hand,” on whom he relied for many things – including the high-tech clock radio she’d given him the previous Christmas.
The night of Sept. 10, Jerry had stayed up to watch his beloved New York Giants play in the “Monday Night Football” game. The contest ended late, so Jerry set the clock radio’s alarm to awaken him the next morning. As it turned out, he failed to set it correctly. “I never knew how to work that thing,” he said. “Camy always did it for me.”
As a result, the alarm did not sound as planned and Jerry overslept. Having no pressing appointments that morning, he decided to spend a leisurely hour drinking coffee and reading the morning paper in his kitchen before making a later commute.
So when United Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower, and less than 15 minutes later United Airlines flight 175 speared the South Tower, Jerry was miles away in his home, by that time watching with stunned disbelief as the unthinkable events unfolded.
Coincidence? Luck? Jerry thinks not. Years before, a garage near the World Trade Center was bombed on the floor where he and Camy usually parked their car when both went to work in Manhattan. That day, however, Camy was ill, and Jerry had decided to remain home to care for her. So 9/11 was not the first time his life had been spared.
A devoted follower of Jesus Christ, Jerry believes God chose to protect him. While understanding he is not better or more worthy than thousands that lost their lives that day, including some of his friends, he trusts in the God who declares, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Ironically, Psalm 61:3 says of God, “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” That was certainly true for Jerry 11 years ago. He knows that's not a guarantee of immunity from hardship. Camy’s passing, while a factor in Jerry’s being spared on Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrates that.
But it does offer followers of Christ assurance that God is with us every moment of every day, unfolding His sovereign plan for our lives.