We Will Never Forget
It's been 13 years since it happened on what started out as any other Tuesday morning.
Last year I told my son about the Sept. 11 attacks. He wasn't born when they occurred. It was the first time I had to actually explain what happened.
Discussing 9/11 with someone who doesn't have some degree of knowledge and a tug on their heart when the topic arises is...odd. Ignorance is bliss they say. For a little while perhaps but no one avoids bad news forever. It pains me to think that although he has no concept of what it feels like to experience a national tragedy, history suggests that others are looming in his future.
During the summer of 2001, I was working two jobs. I lived in an apartment and I had a long walk out to my carport. My life was lots of walking, lots of driving, lots of working.
One day, on my way from my apartment-to-car-to-job-to-car-to-apartment, I found a feather on the ground. That is nothing extraordinary. Then I found another one on a different day...then another and another. What really got my attention was the accompanying feeling of impending awfulness I experienced as I found them. My heart would race, I had chills down my spine, and time stood still...a textbook panic reaction. I would talk about it with my husband, but what could he say? "I feel like something bad is going to happen. I can't explain it," I'd say over and over.
Somewhere along the way I had a vision. I was trying to sort out my irrational feelings of doom that mounted with each feather discovery. I closed my eyes and I saw a plane flying and stopping, exploding. Flying and stopping and disappearing. A plane crash? It's not falling to the ground. Into a mountain? Maybe. No, that didn't seem right either. Again, I closed my eyes to try and figure out what I was really seeing. "A plane is crashing. But not crashing to the ground. I don't understand. It just stops in the air. It doesn't make sense."
And then, I said the words that would haunt me for years,
"I just feel like bodies are going to fall out of the sky."
In August of that year, pop singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the
Bahamas after finishing a
video shoot. She was only 22 years old. "Maybe that was it," I
thought. I don't remember if I saw any more feathers after that. All was quiet
for the next couple of weeks.
Oh My God
Before my alarm clock woke me up for work, my mom came into my room frantically saying something about an attack. "We're being attacked!" or "they are attacking us!" I don't remember verbatim. I was trying to sort out dream vs. reality while wrestling with my eyelids.
"Turn on the TV there is some scary (stuff) happening!" The news told me the rest.
The second tower had just been hit. One plane crash - a horrific accident. Two planes? No accident. And then, the Pentagon was hit. We were awake for that.
I felt a weight on my chest of intense grief and shock and guilt. The kind of weight that makes you wonder if you will be able to take a breath in again.
Estimated death tolls began to roll in. I had to get ready for work although I didn't think I could even stand up. I remember keeping calm until getting into the shower. I started crying (sobbing as quietly as possible) and saying out loud (again, quietly, but like a crazy person nonetheless,) "All those people.... Oh God... All those people. ALL those PEOPLE!! I knew something was going to happen!" I felt guilty because I knew something was going to happen even though I didn't know what exactly.
"God, why did I know that something would happen but I didn't know enough to do ANYTHING ABOUT IT? Why. Why? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY? Who do you tell? What good is it? What's the point!?!"
Driving to work we heard on the radio that all planes had been grounded in the country, except one. News reports at the time were confusing. We didn't hear about the fourth plane crashing, yet.
Our building was in a major city, high up into the hills. We pulled into the parking lot and after closing the car doors, we heard the sound of a jet. Completely panic stricken, we just looked at each other. I was too scared to make a noise but in my head "Oh my God, NO!" Seconds later, over our heads, two military jets broke into view from the other side of the hill and screamed across the sky.
At work, my boss turned on the news. As we watched smoke pouring out of the buildings, suddenly the camera showed something fly down out of the windows. It didn't register at first, but soon we understood. At some point there was footage of two people holding hands as they tumbled. I wanted to say to them all, "DON'T!" But, it wasn't much of a choice. Someone said the terrible words which were, in effect, 'people will do almost anything to get away from fire.'
Bodies were falling out of the sky. My own words hit me like a ton of bricks.
There Was Nothing I Could Do...right??
Here's a question to ponder. What if all of us believers dropped to our knees right then and there instead of staring into the TV or listening to the radio, in shock? Or, what if I had said a real prayer for help instead of crying in horror, cursing out God in the shower?
Believers know about the power of prayer. There are even stories of atheists who prayed when they got desperate, and God delivered. Then, why don't we do it more often? There are enough prayers to keep us busy all day and night. How much time do we spend dialed into our anxiety instead of investing that same time and effort into giving it over, repeatedly if necessary, in prayer? How long do we wait and worry before remembering to ask Him for help and then listen?
Am I suggesting that the attacks would have been erased from history if I had just prayed? Although I do believe the prayer of a single person can be mighty, no I'm not implying that it would have taken down Al Qaeda. But, what if everyone who had a premonition or vision prayed? There are stories of miracles and survival that happened in the lives of those who were hurled into a living hell on Sept, 11. 2001 - accounts about how God showed up in the middle of seemingly hopeless nightmares.
What if everyone who has a concern about the country, or terrorism, or the future of humanity prayed?
While we can't fully understand why such terrible acts are allowed by God, we do know that prayer is the key to unleashing heavenly intervention and miracles. The Bible is full of stories of people pleading to God for help on the behalf of others.
What I Could Have Done. What I WILL Do. Will You?
The whole reason I am sharing this story is because there is something I could have done, something that we can all do, before the next tragedy comes.
It only occurred to me within the last couple of years WHY we are given this "gift" of knowing about future trouble.
That particular premonition was not meant so that I would try and swoop in like Will Smith and save the world. Nor was it to give me a cosmic riddle or bizarre sense of guilt. It was so that I could pray about it - boldly, expectantly, and without ceasing.
From now on whenever I get that funny feeling, I know that I am supposed to simply, but earnestly, stop what I'm doing and pray.
When someone of concern comes to mind - pray.
When visions or dreams come that make no sense - pray.
When reading the news - pray.
When fear arises - pray.
When it feels like it's all going to hell and there's nothing we can do about it...
Let's get on our knees, or sit, or stand...and pray.
I believe in the power of God and prayer. I believe history doesn't have to be repeated. I believe that there are enough headstrong people in this world to make a difference by taking a stand against evil, including praying relentlessly for the devil's schemes to be destroyed. I also believe that God wants more of us turning to Him, sooner. If we cast our cares and prayers upon Him we are left with a better ability to function and we put the most effective change maker in charge.