No doubt more than a few people have asked you the question ‘Where were you on September 11th?’ As someone who grew up in New York City, as someone who was in the vicinity of the City on September 11, 2001, and who now lives in the Midwest, I get that question A LOT. Where were you on September 11th?
The reality is that I was in class at Concordia College, Bronxville when the planes hit the World Trade Center. In that room, we were ignorant of the events going on some miles to the south. Suffice it to say, people who lived far from New York, who had never even been to New York, heard of the news before a classroom filled with people who had spent most of their lives in New York heard of it.
Needless to say, when class ended, and at least some of us went to chapel, we were greeted with the news in the prayers for that day. Planes had hit the World Trade Center, let us pray for those who are affected by these events.
I heard the news not from Matt Lauer or Peter Jennings or Tom Brokow, I heard the news from the Campus Chaplin. I heard the news, followed immediately by the words, ‘let us pray’.
It is not often you hear news in such a manner; it is not often such news so shocks you that you can hardly believe what you have heard. Nor is it so often that such news is followed by the words ‘let us pray’.
And yet, perhaps that is a model, however unintentional and coincidental it might have been for me that day, that I should be in class when the news broke; that I should have gone to chapel immediately following that class; that I should have not heard even a whisper of the news prior to that; that the first words spoken following the news were ‘let us pray’.
It is near impossible to recreate such a moment; technology prohibits such a thing. With so many smart phones today, it would be absurd to think that sitting in that classroom today, someone would not have checked their facebook or received a text, telling them the news, and word quickly spreading, and class promptly ending.
And yet, how many moments in our daily lives need to hear the words ‘let us pray’? How many times are we left speechless by the actions of a friend, by the news of a family member, by the reports of evil on the news, when we need to hear those words ‘let us pray’?
‘Let us pray’ is the firm confidence that I, that you, that no one, faces their conflicts or hardships alone. ‘Let us pray’ is the opening line of a sentence that there is a higher power, the Lord Jesus Christ, who hears our prayers, who knows our thoughts, who stands with us in every time of need.
As I sat in that chapel, now 13 years ago, the first words I heard following the news of the tragic events of that day, were the words ‘let us pray’; those may not be the first words you or I get to hear every time tragedy strikes, but when you do hear them, know that those words precede a prayer that will be heard by the ears of our Father who is in heaven.
Let us pray….
Almighty God, You have promised that You will never leave us, nor forsake us. On this day as we remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001, keep us ever mindful that You hear our prayers for peace and for comfort, that we might be reminded to call upon You in both times of mourning and times of rejoicing. In Jesus Name. AMEN.