Where were you when the towers fell? It seems that everyone I have ever asked the question has known precisely what they were doing, who they were with, what they were eating, thinking, feeling at the moment they learned of the tragedy. As an Air Force officer, the events of September 11, 2001 shaped and colored my entire career in the service and defined my 20’s.
I remember waking that morning, beckoned by my roommate to see what was on the news. At first I thought he was watching an action movie like Die Hard but after watching the second plane hit the second tower, I didn’t move from my chair for hours. Not only were civilian airline flights canceled but so were all military training flights. I didn’t return to the cockpit for a week. The next eight years were marked by deployments to four different countries flying missions into over a dozen countries to support two different war efforts. Even when I transferred to an office job, I managed logistics missions in support of the continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The sight of the towers falling galvanized our nation to action. Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” became the call to arms for our men and women in uniform replacing for many Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as the patriotic anthem of the day. On the other hand, determining the identity of our “common enemy” became somewhat more difficult. Certainly, Bin Laden was the kingpin, but did all muslims become our enemies overnight?
Visual cues were often absent for airport security to distinguish Arabic Christians from Palestinian Jews from Muslims. Nevermind that muslims were among those killed in the twin towers. Terrorism seems to ally itself with an amorphous set both of agents and of motivations. Confusion wreaks havoc on our pursuit of peace within an ordered society. Continuing difficulties notwithstanding, today I would simply like to honor the memory of fallen heroes and innocent lives lost – whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish or other. Acts of bravery in the name of genuine peace continue to germinate in times of crisis. Let us be grateful for the men and women who volunteer to place their lives in the service of our defense. As we offer prayer for those who died in 9/11, and those who have died to prevent its repetition, let us also pray for the wisdom to recognize in every nation around the world, those who while worshipping another god, nonetheless are our allies in the search for peace, and thank God for them.