Two decades have now passed since the horrific events of September 11, 2001, though there are times that it does not seem that the attacks have been that long ago. People of a certain age will remember where they were, what they were doing and who they were with when nineteen Islamists rained mass murder at three locations in our country. Some of our citizens are too young to have memories of these events. Those that lost a loved one that Tuesday morning will never be able to forget the personal pain associated with that day.
History records the staggering statistics of the attacks on September 11, 2001. 2996 people dead. 2763 at the World Trade Center Towers, including 343 members of the New York Fire Department firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York Police Department officers and 37 Port Authority Police Officers. (Cyrus, a bomb sniffing police dog, was killed at the Twin Towers during the collapse). 189 people died at the Pentagon and 44 died in the crash at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The oldest victim was 85. The youngest victim was an unborn child. 1106 of the victims remain unidentified. In total citizens of 78 countries lost their lives that day. The monetary losses of that day are estimated to be nearly two trillion dollars.
History may dispassionately view these victims as nameless statistics. The victims never were mere statistics to God and they never will be just statistics to their families. They are still husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends. The passage of years will not change who they were that morning and who they are in the memories of their families.
The surviving family members have aged twenty years. Their deceased loved ones have not aged an hour, frozen in time at the age they were on that Tuesday morning. Ageless in treasured family photos. Memories may flood the minds of these survivors, remembering what it was like to learn of the death of their loved one. Some may remember trying to explain to a child why Mom or Dad will not be coming home or trying to comfort a cat or dog who had a quizzical look as to why one of their humans is no longer with them. The surviving family members have daily had to live with the reality of loved ones absent from two decades of birthdays, holidays, weddings and everyday life. The vacant chair at each family’s dining room table. The empty seat in each family’s living room. Hearts of the living that still ache twenty years later for a parent, child, sibling, spouse, other family member or friend who never lived to see the dawn of September 12, 2001 because of the pure wickedness of the terrorist hijackers on that day so long ago.
None of us have any power to change what happen that day. But, if you so choose, there are two things you can do tonight. First, you can pray God’s Comfort and Peace be upon the surviving family members of the 9-11 victims. The second thing you can do is NEVER FORGET!
William E. Plants
URG Chaplaincy Coordinator