WHEN TOWERS FALL: GOD IS ENOUGH
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the worst single act of terrorism occurred at the World Trade Center in New York City, at the U. S. Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in the skies over Pennsylvania. A total of 2,977 people were killed. It is likely the case that every person reading these words remembers where he or she was when the news came that morning that drastically changed America in these times.
The World Trade Center Towers were impressive—110 stories high with a construction cost of $1.5 billion that resulted in two towers consisting of 400 million pounds of steel. Total construction time for completion was 7 years. However, it only took minutes for all of it to be destroyed by 2 Boeing 767 airliners, each possessing a 400,000 lb. load capacity, and nearly 24,000 gallons of fuel.
The Bible affirms, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). The Psalmist said, “In the Lord I take refuge. . . . Flee like a bird to your mountain. . . . [I]f the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. . . . The Lord tests the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:1, 3-4). Has there ever been a week when the words, “God Bless America,” have been sung by so many millions of people? Churches everywhere, along with the Congress of the United States, and even the Stock Market, all lifted up their voices.
President George W. Bush tells the story in his book Decision Points. Three days following the attacks, Bush declared September 14 as a National Day of Prayer. He calls that day “grueling and emotional” but also “inspiring” (144). A little after 7:00 a.m., there was a national security briefing in the Oval Office following by the first Cabinet meeting since the attacks. As President Bush stepped into the room, the Cabinet members broke out in sustained applause, tears flowed, and he asked Donald Rumsfeld to lead them in prayer. Following a speech at a prayer service at the National Cathedral, Bush then flew to New York City where he went to Ground Zero—the horrific disaster site. He writes, “As we approached Ground Zero, I felt like I was entering a nightmare. There was little light. Smoke hung in the air and mixed with suspended particles of debris, creating an eerie gray curtain” (148).
He was led down into a pit where rescue workers were digging through the rubble for survivors. Bush states in his book, “If the rest of the site was a nightmare, this was pure hell. It seemed darker than the area up top. In addition to the heavy soot in the air, there were piles of shattered glass and metal” (148). With no stage, no microphone, and no prepared remarks, the President took the hand of an older New York firefighter, Bob Beckwith, who pulled the Commander-in-Chief to the top of a mound of metal which, it was learned later, was a crumpled fire truck. There, with a bullhorn in hand, he spoke, telling the workers that “America was on bended knee in prayer for the victims, the rescuers, and the families” (149).
For many Americans, during those dark September days of 2001, it became about God. America seemed to understand what a former governor of Tennessee, Frank Clement, meant when he said, “While national defense is our duty and while we must be prepared to repel arrogant and godless forces . . . the ultimate answer . . . is . . . a spiritual power . . . on our knees in prayer to Almighty God” (qtd. in Brings 354). There seemed to be the acknowledgment by the masses that we were “one nation under God” and truly “my country, tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty.”
During those dark September days of 2001, we heard no strident voice raised concerning where prayers could, or could not, be said. And, there was no debate about the lack of political correctness of praying in Jesus’ name. There were more prayer meetings across the land, from sea to shining sea, than ever seen before in recent modern times. There was only One true Source of help and to that One God prayers were being offered by millions from one time zone to another in a great wave of petition as the citizens of the U. S. A. with one voice entreated the God of Heaven and Earth. It was about needing and seeking, as Thomas Jefferson states in his first inaugural, “The favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life” (qtd. in Remini and Golway 34). As James Madison put it in his first inaugural address, these prayers were to “that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations . . . to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future” (40).
In conjunction with the deepened practical awareness of the existence of God, and that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12; cf. Psalm 34:14ff), there was, during those dark September days in 2001, more visible awareness of the following:
The AVAILABILITY of God’s help. The Psalmist wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). No matter how terrifying and horrifying the events of Earth, God is available as an unfailing source of strength enabling one to cope manfully with whatever assails. “The Lord is the strength of my life” (Psalm 27:1). When Paul experienced that which left him alone and threatened, he said, “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me. . . . And I was delivered. . . . And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Timothy 4:17-18).
The STABILITY of God’s kingdom. In the Lord’s kingdom, there is peace and tranquility in the midst of pain and terror (Psalm 46:2-4). There is security in the midst of insecurity (Psalm 46:5-6). “All the foundations of the earth are unstable” (Psalm 82:5). However, there is that which cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). There is hope in the midst of hopelessness. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
The SOVEREIGNTY of God’s nature. God was in control before September 11, 2001, and He is in control now. One of our greatest needs in life is to “Be still and know that I am God . . .” (Psalm 46:10). One day the battlefields will be deserted, the bows of war will be broken, the spears shattered, and the wagons of war will be burned (Psalm 46:9). However, God will be exalted (Psalm 46:10). “For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Revelation 19:6). It was true before September 11, 2001, and it is true today: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, emp. added).
Diane Langberg relates the powerful story of an anonymous 9-11 survivor. Dr. Langberg writes,
She survived the tragedy of September 11th. It was quite a story and she told it well. She talked about running down halls and sidewalks, watching people trampled. She remembered the young and wealthy dropping their expensive briefcases and computers as they fled. What was gain they counted loss.
She said that while she was fleeing for her life she felt afraid and anxious (of course). She tried very hard to remember some Bible verses. She wanted to comfort and reassure herself with them. Nothing came to mind, for her brain was not working as well as it usually did. She said this, “I could only remember His name, but it was enough.”
I do not think I will ever forget that. Briefcases and computers, the stuff of busy lives, dropped and forgotten. Only He remained. And He was enough. How easy it is to lose that lesson in the midst of our busy lives. Money, work, schedules, deadlines, reputations, such things seem so crucial. But when life is threatened, they cannot save. Nor can they comfort. I pray the lesson will be burned in my soul so that I will live out of a heart that knows He is enough.
When the towers built by men fall, God remains. He brings security in the midst of insecurity. He brings peace and tranquility in pain and terror. He brings hope out of hopelessness.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). God Is! That is enough!
Charles C. Pugh, III
Brings, Lawrence M. We Believe in Prayer. Minneapolis: Dennison, 1958.
Bush, George W. Decision Points. New York: Crown, 2010.
Langberg, Diane. “Are You Listening?” BradHambrick.com. 18 Nov. 2016. Web. 7 Sept. 2017.
Remini, Robert V., and Terry Golway, eds. Fellow Citizens: Penguin Book of U. S. Presidential Inaugural Addresses. New York: Penguin, 2008.