General CBF

Remembering September 11th

This article is the first in a series written by members of a generation that has been defined by the events of September 11, 2001. Current leadership team member Michael Lee shares this first-hand account. Michael serves as youth director of Calvary Baptist Church, Asheville, NC.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I worked in downtown Manhattan as a stock trader just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. From my office window I was able to see the attack unfold seconds before the first impact occurred. This event changed everything.

I remember that morning so clearly. I remember how blue the sky was as I left my Brooklyn apartment. It was the clearest blue you could imagine. My subway ride to work was normal, and so was my first hour of work until 8:46A.M. Then I’ll never forget what happened next….

As I was concentrating on my computer screen, my boss, who sat about two feet from me to my left, just happened to be looking out his window. He said, “Mike, isn’t that plane really close to the building?” I leaned back in my chair, looked out the window, and watched the first plane angle on its side and crash into Tower One.

I screamed “Oh my God.” I watched as Tower One absorbed the first plane – explosions, and fireballs shot out at the impact zone and on the other side of the building.

As we watched in disbelief – we looked at the TV on the trading floor to see if they could make sense of it. Then all of a sudden, less than 20 minutes later, a co-worker of mine shouted, “Oh my God, there’s another one.” The impact of the second plane, was visually more terrifying than the first. This was the impact that the entire world saw live.

That morning many of us felt violated, attacked, and robbed of our naive innocence. I know it hurt as an American to watch, but there is something far deeper that only New Yorkers experienced that day. When the Towers fell at 9:46 and 10:03A.M., there was a part of me that experienced an emotional silence that I cannot explain.

I was a wreck for weeks after the attacks. I remember every time I closed my eyes to sleep all I saw was the impact or the explosion. For weeks, I was consumed by fear.

Three weeks later my fear hit a boiling point. On approximately Oct. 7, 2001, I remember sitting in a subway station waiting for my train to move. The subway station I was at was two blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood. Since the train doors were open, I was able to smell the smoke billowing into the station as well as the stench of decaying bodies. The Towers continued to burn for six weeks after the attack.

I couldn’t emotionally take it anymore, I was petrified. I was at my wits end, my emotional energy was spent (I was obviously experiencing PTSD). The flashbacks, the non-stop news reports, the smell of burning metal and concrete daily was overwhelming.

In spite of all this, I’ll never forget what happened on the train that morning…I remember desperately praying in my head. I said, “God, I’m done, I am completely petrified, I don’t know what to do or what to think next. And God, I don’t know what you want from me. Just take me off the bench. Whatever you want to do with my life is OK, because I am done with trying to figure this out for myself.”

This was the turning point; I think this prayer is what got me off that train, off Wall St. and eventually to seminary and the ministry. God’s call of me to ministry was around December of 2001. The Holy Spirit used my mom, a pastor, and sermons to change my heart. God used anyone He could to get through to my head.

On the train that morning…I confessed. I confessed that I could not handle my life nor find the answers to unexplainable evil, pain and suffering. God responded gradually. God rescued me from the life I was in, a career that did not use my talents, and He has restored losses from that day as I have been able to minister to others who have faced tragedy and loss.

Working in ministry and becoming a Christian in 2004 were pivotal moments in my life. Over the last 10 years, I have gotten to know a God that is more powerful, loving and amazing that I could imagine. I have gone to church my entire life, but by God’s grace – He has led me down paths that I did not want to go, so that He could create in me something that I could not produce on my own.

Did God cause 9/11? No. Did God allow it? Yes. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that on the Cross, Jesus experienced an evil and terrorism from his own creation and bore it. I serve a wounded God who knows what it’s like to suffer innocently and who absorbs all death and pain unto Himself so that we can be healed and restored in Him.

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