When you are in elementary school, they teach you that in an emergency you can call 911 and help will come. It’s a great bit of information to have and most of us just tucked it away and took for granted that a phone call would bring help if we were ever in trouble.
Seldom at that age did we think about how bad it would be to call 911 and who would actually come. We didn’t pause to think that behind the lights and sirens that there would be real women and men.
We didn’t think about it, because we were just kids. We rested in the promise of rescue when we found ourselves in trouble. We didn’t think about the life of those who would run to our rescue. We didn’t imagine how their day must go when they have a plan, but everything changes. We didn’t pause to think about what they do, the training they’ve been through, the equipment they keep up. We didn’t think about the fires they had put out, the dealers they took off the street, the justice that was served, the lives saved, all because they were there. We selfishly thought the peace we enjoyed was just the way that the world was. We didn’t consider that perhaps God used men and women to secure our peace by keeping evil in check. We just rested in the fact that if evil ever came for us, someone would come to our rescue.
Then one Tuesday morning in September the world began to fall apart. It’s a moment that marked our nation. I was in our church office preparing for a staff meeting. Our Senior pastor came in and said he heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We turned on the only TV we could find. As a staff we watched as a second plane hit the towers causing us to realize that this wasn’t an accident, but this was indeed an act of terrorism.
We held on watching and praying as we witnessed fire crews and police officers running into the building to save lives. Then we heard about the pentagon and flight 93 that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. And we watched praying for people who we knew were in New York. Then we saw the towers fall, it was like having the wind knocked out of us, but rather than gasping for breath, we were grasping for hope in the midst of tragedy.
Yet, in our darkest hour, we saw our heroes in the ashes. We found our hope. Over the next few days we would find out more about what had happened. We heard about how practical strangers banded together on flight 93 to put their plane down in a field and frustrate the plans of the hijackers.
We heard about the two F-16 pilots who scrambled out of our Nation’s capital without ammunition, ready to ram the rouge flight 93 if necessary. One of the pilots had strapped in her plane knowing that her dad was possibly the pilot of the flight they would be ordered to ground.
There was a young hero working as a equities trader, who had been a volunteer firefighter back home, who got everyone from his department down safely. Then he went back in to help more people make it down… the last anyone saw of him was in the smoke and ash as he had tied a cloth around his mouth, going back in for more.
We are told that within one minute of when the first plane hit that firefighters and police crews were dispatched to the trade center. There was one hero who was supposed to be off that day but he saw the first plane go into the tower so he scrapped his plans stopped by the station to get his gear and ran into the towers to help save lives.
Many brave men and women died as they ran in and the towers fell. Over the days and weeks following many who did survive were slated with the daunting task of pulling survivors and bodies from the debris. We lost 3000 souls that day.
We banded together as a nation. Together we mourned and swore we would come up from the ashes stronger and in many ways I believe we have.
To our First-Responders and Heroes:
I’m sure there are days and moments where you feel like a hero because by Gods grace you saw the results of your labor. You know you saved lives. On other days it seems like you have only seen the worst side of humanity, and it feels like you are losing not because of your efforts but because the odds are so overwhelming.
How do you keep going?
I want to share a few verses with you: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 cor. 13:12-13
I think what helps is remembering that we don’t and won’t see perfectly this side of Heaven, but one day we will see. The three virtues that we are told that remain are faith, hope, and love. They each help us move forward in a fallen world.
Faith isn’t wishful thinking, as some would have you believe. Faith is a rock solid trust that God is who He says He is and He will do what He said He will do. Faith is looking at a lost and fallen world, seeing the worst of humanity and realizing that God is still in control. It’s recognizing that the final word hasn’t been spoken yet and that justice will come to everyone!
Hope isn’t a desperate wish, but here it is an optimistic longing. It’s like waiting to unwrap the presents at Christmas. They are already bought and under the tree and little Tommy says, “I hope Christmas get’s here soon.” There is no question, Christmas is coming, what little Tommy wants is for it to get here sooner rather than later. When we see the ugly in the world, we are reminded that this world is broken and a new world is coming. Hope says bring it quickly!
Finally there is Love. Love isn’t a sappy emotion, at it’s core love is giving selflessly for for others. Jesus demonstrated his love for us by voluntarily dying in our place for our sins. Then God who is just, and calls every sin into account, is still just by punishing Jesus for every evil we have done. You could be free from the sins you had committed and the wrath that they incurred, not because they didn’t matter, but because Jesus paid the price you could not pay. Love takes the worst and gives the best.
I thank God for you!
I’ll never forget the day my son told me, “look out daddy, I see the police.” I was shocked! What had happened? Why did he think I should be afraid? Was it because I might get a speeding ticket? I rebuked him. I said, “No, son thank God you see the police!” My son ever so smart at responding said, “what if he gives you a ticket?” To which I responded, “what if he didn’t give out tickets? What if he just let people speed by? What if I lose respect for a speed limit that is slower than my car will go? What if I hit a boy your age because I was speeding through a school zone and didn’t see him? No son, thank God for the policeman.
Son, thank God for the paramedic! What would happen if there were no one to call when you are hurt?
Son, thank God for the legal system. Thank God that if you get accused of a crime that you get a day in court in front of a jury of your peers.
Thank God for the fire fighters who do so much more than put out fires, but serve our community in countless ways.
Thank God for the military who protect us and secure the freedoms we claim in our nation.
You see son, we can go to sleep tonight because God has called brave men women to be our heroes so if ever the need arises we can call and they will come.
One day, something will happen and you will reach for that phone to call 911 and you will never doubt that help is on the way. You don’t for a second pause and hope that the paramedics, the firefighters, the officers, etc. will come. So son, don’t look at a hero and say, watch out like it is a bad thing. We should watch out for our heroes and honor them.
We watched on as our nation faced its own crisis on 9-11 and our first-responders were there. Heroes in uniform and heroes in plain clothes. We never really lost hope because even when the world was falling down around us we witnessed our heroes answer that call selflessly serving others covered in ash, running back in to a burning building to save even more lives. It is fitting that we pause today to remember the events of 9-11 and to honor the men and women in our community who answer our call for heroes still today!
(This was part of a speech I shared with a crowd of heroes a few years back.)