Sunday, September 11, 2016

When Fear Comes Calling: 15 Years Later

I had, to be honest, a love/hate relationship concerning the years I taught Sunday School at the church where I pastored, Bethlehem Congregational Church in Disputanta. The task allowed for much more flexibility, give and take, and a free flow of ideas, but it also took time and energy from the main task at hand, the service still to come and preaching the sermon. The good far outweighed the bad, by the way, the pull was within myself. I loved the class and everyone in it.  :)

On September 9, 2001, a day after Robbie, then nine, and myself took an impromptu ride in a small prop plane during an air show in Louisa County, my Mama (Robbie's Nana) proudly watching us from the ground as we both maintained the ability not to throw up (it was my first and to this day only flight in a small plane), the Sunday School lesson was entitled, "When Fear Comes Calling".

We had no idea.

Less than 48 hours later, walking down the corridors at work training a new employee on his first day on the job, I suddenly hearing the terms "plane" and "World Trade Center" come out of the mouth of Meg Byrd, then Sales Director of Q94. I made the short walk down the hallway to the back conference room, where a sales meeting had, repeat, had been underway. When I got there, the door was open, the television on, and a new reality emanated from it.

There's no real reason to go through all the "details" of what transpired the rest of the day. But there are things about it I cannot, and refuse, to forget.

--Rachel was with me. She didn't go to preschool that day, and Mom was at a mandatory meeting for a couple of hours for the credit union across town. So, I was already juggling a four-year old and a new employee. It was a non-issue moments later.

--Thankfully, Rachel didn't grasp what had happened. But Robbie was at Longdale Elementary School, in the fourth grade. I was completely confident in everyone there to take care of the children, having worked so closely with them in our PTO. They were phenomenal.

--"Oh, my goodness."--The words of Bryant Gumbel coming over CBS News when he got his first look at the Pentagon. Seconds before, my dear wonderful copywriter, the great Carol Deane had poked her head in the office door and said, "They hit the Pentagon!". I had CBS on my radio, back in the day when Channel 6's audio could still be heard at 87.7 FM.

--Dan Rather's disbelief when the late Harold Dow explained his eyewitness account of when the first tower came down at 9:59am ET. His report aired live, by phone, eight minutes later.

"We heard the building coming down and that's what we were running from. People literally were running out of their shoes."

--Bonnie calling me, after her meeting, trying to figure out what was going on after turning on her radio. She came straight to the station, we all went home briefly, me back to work with a portable TV for myself and my office mates to watch, Bonnie off to get Robbie.

--That evening, revival services began, as scheduled at a dear friend's church, also in Prince George. I was the scheduled speaker. It was a deep responsibility, but the opportunity to speak was of great solace to me.

The final memory of that fateful day was the eerie silence driving home on Interstate 295. No planes flew, there was little traffic, but, at one point, there was a line of military vehicles lined up and down the side of the highway. It's the closest I've ever been to anything resembling a "war zone". And it was chilling.

In the past fifteen years, much has changed, much has been debated, and, while we continue to fight to preserve our freedoms, the events of 9/11 caused us to lose some of it, too. Our nation, in some ways, is just as separated on this day as we were galvanized in the days after the attacks.

"God Bless America" was on storefronts, bumper stickers, and signs at fast food restaurants everywhere. I told people, that will not last. It most certainly did not. And with God more removed from the public square of America, and from the mindset of many of the 315 million individuals in our country, we are seeing the fraying in the fabric that comes with his denial. One of my favorite attributes of God is that he is kind. If He is not welcome somewhere, He will withdraw. But His absence will be noted.

My prayer is, as we close another anniversary of a most horrific day, that we spend, as a nation, a lot more time and energy inward, rather than outward. We need to listen and understand each other better. We need to usurp the power so centered in, ironically, the two locations attacked fifteen years ago today, the governmental and financial centers of our nation. We must remind the people in authority that they work for We The People, to remind the money changers of what happened to them when Jesus passed judgement on their work (and they do worse today) and return power to a honest level, and a local level.

Companies need to value their most important asset: their people. I'm a free-market guy all day long, but, when it comes to community responsibility, it's a good thing to pay honest wages even if it means less of a profit. It means more stability, to the family the employee is providing for, and for the community you serve, whether you serve just one, or, like Walmart, seem to want to serve them all.

There is such a thing as "enough".

Love your neighbor. Meet your neighbor. Heck, in some cases, learn the name of your neighbor.

Let's rebuild the land of the free and the home of the brave from within. Let's respect differences rather than be torn by them. We can beat the enemy outside the gate, we've done it over and over. Let's not experience the effects of the decay that threatens us here, on the inside.

Those who tragically left us 15 years ago today deserve so much better.

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