How Did 9.11 Impact You?

By Eugene C. Scott

Drawing of 8-year-old Kevin Wang

Vail Mountain rose behind us unmoved. I, however, was trembling. I stood at its base on the ski slope holding a microphone. Beside me stood a friend, an Episcopalian priest. I felt out of place there wearing dress shoes, a dark tie, and a suit. Not the typical dress for a ski resort, even in the fall. But this was not a normal day. It was the afternoon of September 11, 2001.

Vail Resorts had arranged for the clergy of the Vail Interfaith Chapel to hold a prayer service. And word had spread. Below me in the fading grass and dying high mountain wild flowers sat hundreds of people from the world over. Many didn’t even speak English. How would what I had to say make a difference in the face of such evil, such fear and pain? I looked at their upturned faces. Many were tear-stained. All where expectant.

I’m a man of words. As a pastor, I have spoken hundreds of thousands of words preaching and teaching and praying several times a week–almost every week–for the past thirty years in the hope that words would help change the world. As a writer too, I believe words make a difference. Even a picture can’t touch a soul the way a few well spoken or written words can.

But against this? Here I was hoping my words could make a dent against the picture of two towers–filled with thousands of people–smoking and finally disintegrating into a pile of rubble and death. Good luck!

I don’t remember why I was the one chosen from among the outstanding pastors and leaders in the Interfaith Community to speak at this service. I felt empty. I had no words, besides foul, fearful ones.

Yet I knew God spoke the universe, us, into existence. Jesus was born into a broken world to heal it as the living Word. And I knew God just might speak through me. So, I let fly. I don’t remember word for word what I said. I can’t find my notes. I read a Psalm. I know I was honest, saying I had no ultimate answers; but that I believed God had not told anyone to do this; that I had no idea why God allowed such things; that if we stood arm in arm, unified in love, that that would be the more powerful act.

Still I felt as if my words were mere shadows, mountain Chick-a-dees flitting and twittering  among the near-by pines.

After I spoke, my friend led us in prayer. We poured our anguish, fear, hope, anger, silence out to God. The blue, thin airplaneless sky above us seemed to absorb our cries.

A young man from Ireland came up after and thanked us. He had grown up in a terrorist-torn country. He was sad that kind of violence had now visited the US. No one, no country deserved this, he said. Others too, from Spain, Australia, many from New York City stood and talked, listened, cried. Several had friends or family who lived and worked in downtown Manhattan. It turned out several lost loved ones. We hugged, cried some more, prayed again. Thousands of miles from Ground Zero, nestled in the pristine Rockies, an act of unspeakable evil seared us.

But God’s words also steeled us. Hope sprouted and began to grow again even on that evil day. We all went back into our corners of the universe changed. Today I see people, pain, hope, words, life differently. Today, if I look carefully, I still see that change, hear it in words–yes, like small birds–darting around me. I know better now that even small things put in the hands of God can make huge difference. God’s words spoken in truth and love are more powerful than bombs. God did not prevent the evil of 9.11. But I believe, even ten years later, God is still redeeming it, turning it in to something healing and powerful for those of us who let it and then tell the story of that redemption.

So, I will keep speaking words and writing words in the hope that God will take them and make them bigger than they seem. And maybe use them in your life.

How did 9.11 impact or change you and your world? Take a moment and a few small words and let us know.

Eugene is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. This coming Sunday–on the ten-year anniversary of 9.11–The Neighborhood Church will hold a service remembering those who died, not just that day, but also the One who died on the cross 2000 years ago, and rededicating ourselves to being different because of those deaths.


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5 responses to “How Did 9.11 Impact You?

  1. John Moyer

    Perhaps by coincidence, who knows? Our older son Andy was born on September 11th and would be 42 on Sunday had he not died Christmas Eve 19 years ago, head injury skiing. So…on Sunday I reflect again as I do daily on Andy’s life plus the lives of those who died in that field in southern Pennsylvania, The Pentagon, and in lower Manhatten. Our ways are not His Ways. My earth brain cannot wrap around these incidents, except to regard all of them the way of a Soverign God.

    • John: Thanks for sharing your story. I am sorry for your loss. And just as your grief, in some way, will be renewed this weekend, I pray so will your hope and faith and healing be renewed in Christ. Eugene

      Typed by thumb from my iPhone

  2. Very well said.
    I was seventeen in weight lifting class when the rumors of a plane flying into the World Trade Center began to reach us. We spent the rest of the day transfixed before the TV. Lacking any faith, it was beyond difficult to deal with this shock. The one feeling that I couldn’t shake was a desperate desire for revenge. Using harsher language than I will reproduce here, I called for the heads of everyone in the Middle East.
    That year served as a turning point in my life. American and thus myself were no longer invincible. The following wars that still linger to this day only confirmed this realization. I, like the rest of my countrymen, were rudely awoken to our fallibility that September day. We began to ask the question “why would someone do this?” not rhetorically but hungering for answers.
    In some ways, this event further pushed our collective polarization. People’s faith in America grew as did other’s doubts. Yet, for me, I had to face the reality that just because I was American, I was not guaranteed anything. And in some ways this reality has grown me up and forced me to ask the hard questions that inevitably led me to faith.

    • Thanks, Michael. Yes, it’s true. For some of us our sometimes idolistic belief in America was challenged. I have a more single focused faith, not in a country, or government, or the potential goodness of humankind, but in God alone. It is sometimes scary.


  3. Georgie-ann

    (sorry,…not short, but….)

    Thanks, Eugene,…living as a transplant to NY and within an hour’s travelling distance to “the City” since 1957, I can tell you that 9-11 hit me (and ALL of us here) very very hard. A couple of weeks later, when we could finally start to breathe and talk (semi-normally) again, one of my (naive) very elderly Catholic Church-mates, who had grown up in Brooklyn, said, “Well, now I really DO believe there is a devil. I’ve seen him.”

    That about sums it up as a bottom-line for the “new” revelation, in case anyone had been having their doubts about the reality and existence of pure evil, until then.

    We’d “had it easy.” We’d been “taking things for granted.” And for our whole lives, in fact. We’d been comfortable complaining about petty, little annoying things,…like, anywhere, anytime and all the time. We like this. We don’t like that. We had choices, lots of choices. We had time, and lots of it. We could ignore things. We could change our minds and go back and visit things we’d been ignoring. It would all still “be there,” invitingly waiting for us, tantalizing and compelling our interests and curiosity. Stuff just “keeps on keepin’ on” in NYC — (doesn’t it?) — and those rugged people too! With a zillion awesome options, pluses and minuses, uphill and downhill twists and turns,…”the City that never sleeps,”…the City built on basalt rock,…a city of survivors, ambition, activity, skyscrapers, the tallest buildings,…

    And suddenly, it’s all gone. It really is.

    And by deliberate, insidious, intentional, pre-meditated, destructive human hand. We have an enemy. Somebody hates us. Really really hates us.

    It’s insane. It’s unbelievable. The “impossible” (to think) has become “all too possible” (to do). But what kind of mutant human mind (forget about heart) would conceive and DO this? Evil, blatantly thumbing its nose at us, in our “open society” of trust, laws, goodwill, grace, commonsense, mutuality, and very tall buildings made of glass. After all, looking out for each other, protecting each other, only makes sense for a healthy society.

    So, not only skyscrapers tumbled with innocent lives lost and devastated, but illusions were busted as well. Were our illusions too grand?? How do we sustain such great dreams?? We’re dependent on positive forces of faith, trust, goodwill, fair play, work, effort, respect, sacrifice, the sense of togetherness and mutual support for mutual needs,…for most of us, God fits into this picture somehow,…love and righteousness being His salient characteristics,…

    But now we’ve been invaded and blindsided by an overt expression of a covert evil — treacherous, traitorous, sneaky, subversive, jealous, vindictive, self-willed evil,…and also “in the name of God,”…(I smell an imposter),…

    How an 80-plus year old very charming Brooklynite could have missed convicting evidence of the existence of the devil before this event, I’m not sure I can explain, but the characteristics of “darkness” (in the spiritual sense) are becoming made more visibly clear to us: hatred, envy, violation of the innocent, taking advantage of trust, misusing goodwill, subversive lies, twisting circumstances, murder,…and, unfortunately: “give him an inch, and he’ll take your mile,”….

    The Bible tells us (Jesus speaking) in:

    Luke 12:2,3

    2 “For THERE IS NOTHING COVERED THAT WILL NOT BE REVEALED, NOR HIDDEN THAT WILL NOT BE KNOWN. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”

    It appears that we are now living in a global time and framework, facilitated by all the technological achievements of the past century, where we are becoming made more aware of the deeply ingrained spiritual (for good or for ill) patterns and conditions inherent in the various societies now having become more emergent and connected than ever before.

    Humanly speaking and ideally, we would wish to be able to interact fairly and safely with these different societies, but we’ve been learning hard lessons — very hard lessons. Surely we need to call on God and pray, for wisdom, help and protection. It should be obvious that the enemy of our soul has many ignorant vessels to call upon in this hour and attempt to use against us. We do need to pray for their Salvation, and also for the powerful hand of God to be on and with His people, strengthening and guiding and sustaining them. We need to pray to be and to become worthy of His attention to us in this way.

    2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

    (more from) Luke 12:4-7

    4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

    6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

    Lord have mercy.

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