Twenty Years Later

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    “He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.

Psalm 10:12-14

I had just come down to the living room and turned on the TV. Every channel was covering the same news story. I was in a little apartment by myself in Texas. A couple weeks prior, I had moved my entire life from Baltimore, Maryland to Waco, Texas in order to attend seminary. I had decided to skip my morning class that Tuesday and sleep in a little. It only took me a few minutes of watching to realize that nothing would ever be the same.

Here I was a guy sitting in central Texas who was born and raised in the northeast and went to college in the northeast watching multiple terrorist attacks happen in the northeast. I felt powerless. I had a strange sense of wanting to get home and yet simultaneously glad that I wasn’t there. I was worried about my friends and family and wondered where they were. While the Twin Towers were three hours from my house, the Pentagon was only 45 minutes away. Where Flight 93 crashed was only two hours from my college.

Disbelief. Shock. Anger. More disbelief. More shock. Horror. Helplessness. These feelings cycled through on repeat. I was glued to the TV. I remember not wanting to even go to the bathroom because I had to bear witness to the Pearl Harbor of my generation.

The second plane hit the second tower. Somebody do something! The second tower fell first. Oh my goodness! The first tower fell second. Get out of there! Clouds of ash. People covered in blood and ash. People wandering around disoriented. News broadcasters speechless. Lord, have mercy.

I watched all day. I watched until there wasn’t anything left to watch and then I kept watching. I was alone in that little apartment and yet, somehow, I was also deeply connected to the rest of the country who was also watching in horror. In shock. In disbelief. And we all knew.

Nothing would ever be the same.