Where were you when

It’s almost that time when the date September 11 appears on the calendar and most people remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Although it’s a solemn day for many people, most have forgotten the utter horror of that day. For me, its not only a matter of where I was when I heard the news, but what I felt, and what my first impressions were.


I was at work and it was afternoon here in South Africa and somebody mentioned that something was happening at the World Trade Centre, and my first thought was for a building in Kempton Park in Johannesburg where negotiations had taken place for the transition from apartheid to democracy. Naturally, I wondered why some people would have a beef about that particular building. Until I saw the images (someone had switched on the television in the tea area). It wasn’t Kempton Park, it was New York.

And I knew that those people in the higher reaches of the tower were in deep, deep trouble. The fire and rescue guys weren’t going to be able to get there for a long time. I knew as I was watching the screen that people were dying in that moment.

It was the days before smart phones with apps and twitter and what not and there were a few people watching the news in the tea area, everybody watching a moment in history unfold. You just knew it was history as it was happening.

I also knew (without the news guys doing much speculating) that it was a terrorist attack and the perpetrators were almost certainly Islamic extremists. The visuals were raw and compelling: great clouds of ash moving like a pyroclastic flow after a volcanic eruption, two Redwoods among buildings crashing to earth in horror, and for me the worst part of the coverage, the falling human beings.

Some time later two French brothers, Jules and Gedeon Naudet released a documentary. They had been embedded with Engine 7/Ladder 1 in Manhattan and filmed the carnage at the World Trade Center, including the impact sounds of those falling human beings striking at the foot of the building.

As it turned out, a super-fit Battalion Chief named Orio Palmer reached the impact zone in tower 2 before the building imploded, meaning that I was wrong and that rescue was coming and but for the collapse, would have saved lives.

Never before had I witnessed (via television) such a profound news event. The Sunday following, the pastor preached a sermon about 9/11 and referenced the events as pointing to the return of Christ…and yet it has been 15 years since that day. Countless acts of terror have occurred since then, and although 9/11 was not the first terror attack ever committed for me it remains the benchmark.

A NYPD policeman was heard at the time remarking that at least it meant that the terrorists didn’t have nuclear weapons. Heaven forbid.

9/11 illustrates for me that:

  • There are lots of horrible people in the world;
  • In 2001, and through 2016 Islam is, unfortunately, not a religion of peace;
  • A decent nation provoked to righteous anger is an awesome thing, just ask Isoroku Yamamoto after Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, where he apparently remarked, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
  • The CIA tried to prevent bad things; they have HUMINT and SIGINT, but only He has GODINT and even the events of that day serve a purpose in His Kingdom;
  •  Without the Prince of Peace, there can be no peace.

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