‘The senselessness of so much death that doesn’t accomplish anything’

On 9/11/2001, I was sitting in my office in Falling Waters, West Virginia, when across the radio came a report that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  My initial thought was “OK, some guy in a Cessna wasn’t paying attention and crashed his plane or maybe he had a heart attack”.  Since there weren’t many details in the broadcast my thoughts seem logical.  I wasn’t too worried about it.

Then came a second report of another plane hitting the second tower.  My thoughts were no longer valid and I ran to the break room to see what was really going on. Many other people were already there watching with concern the images of two smoking towers.  As we watched they started to discuss closing the federal government.  I thought ‘That’s ridiculous.  They aren’t targeting us.  That is unnecessary.”  Then came the report of the third attack, on the Pentagon.  Now closing the federal government seemed like an urgent thing to do and shortly we were sent home.

For three days I was glued to the news on TV almost around the clock watching, praying, hoping for anything that would bring hope to those directly affected.  Hoping for rescue of people still trapped and some sort of understanding of what just happened and why.  Something to make sense of it all.  I don’t think that ever really came.  The senselessness of so much death that doesn’t accomplish anything but sorrow, fear, pain, and terror.  All of these things the product of hate.  Even as I type this it brings back so much emotion.

In the aftermath though I came to see another side to the horror and devastation of these events.  Something I believe was the hand of God.

There was the father and son who worked in the World Trade Center.  They had just come back from vacation and called in to say they were taking one more day before returning to work.

There is the story of two people who were engaged to be married.  The gentleman worked in the World Trade Center.  He couldn’t sleep the whole night before and they spent most of the night discussing their lives, their future and their love.  Almost like saying goodbye.  He died in the one tower.  She was part of the first responders that helped bring medical care.

Then there was the story of a son in the World Trade Center.  Despite all the chaos and the jammed phone lines he was able to call his parents and tell them that he loved them.  He also died in the collapse.

Lastly, there was the story of the head of security of one of the financial firms.  He had been laughed at when years before he had brought in a friend to do an analysis of the weakness of their building.  The analyst said “you are vulnerable at the garage level.”  He developed a plan to get his people out safely and they practiced it.  Most of the employees did not take it very seriously.  That is until the day the truck bomb went off in the garage.  They didn’t laugh at him anymore.  He brought his friend back to do another analysis and the report came back that they were now vulnerable from the air.  He revised their emergency evacuation plans.  After their tower got hit, every one of the employees of that firm made it out alive except for two people.  The head of security who wasn’t going to leave until everyone was out and one other guy who chose to stay with him.

What powerful stories that give me hope and assurance that even in the face of tragedy there is a God who loves us and cares about our pain and sorrow.

— Wendell H, Justice Department

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