By Elizabeth Prata
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the terror attack on America perpetrated by Muslims seeking to honor their false god Allah. They commandeered planes and used the planes themselves as bombs to plow into skyscrapers and important American buildings, killing the hijacking pilots and all passengers and crew on board, as well as people in the buildings and on the ground.
I remember the event like it was yesterday, an opening phrase no doubt many authors and bloggers are writing today in remembrance. I was working in my newspaper office when my graphic designer called me to another part of the building where the television was. She slowly raised her hand and pointed to it wide eyed and silent. We mutely viewed the gaping hole in the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, hearts beating and minds rushing, as we listened to the reporters try to make sense of it. How could a small plane not see the building? It was a clear day, sparkling and bright. As we watched, 18 minutes later a second plane hit the South Tower. Our heads swung from looking straight ahead at the horror unfolding to each other. Eyes locked, we instinctively knew this was not an accident. It was an attack. The word had not been used yet, but it was obvious. We were under attack.
What does one do when the nation is attacked? How do we respond as citizens? As women? As a mother? As a journalist?
Terrorists had declared war on America and had changed the battlefield and its munitions in a way that took our minds long minutes to catch up. Using a jet airliner AS a bomb? Not combatants, but helpless innocents on board are of no consequence? Impassively looking at the people in the Tower as you purposely drive a jet into them? Their lives gone, their families grieving forever?
We responded initially by being practical. We first crossed the street to buy the biggest flag we could get at the local hardware store and ran it on the pole in front of the office. Then we went to the bank to get money. We didn’t know if we would need to be evacuated. We didn’t know if banks would be shut down, or if there would be a run on the bank. We didn’t know if the economy would collapse.
The bank had the TV on and the second plane had hit the Pentagon and the fourth plan had just hit the ground in Shanksville, PA (a jet which was allegedly intended for the Capitol Building). We glanced at the smoking hole in the ground, drew in a shaky breath, and got on with withdrawing cash. The tellers said nothing, It was eerily silent. This event was too big to allow any speech to come out our mouth, our hearts plugged them and our minds were too frozen in confusion to form words.
Then we got gasoline. Again, evacuation tremors were floating through our mind. We might need to escape to somewhere. We kept glancing up at the sky.
We returned tot he newspaper office and we got to work. We were journalists, and we took free speech very seriously. Free Speech isn’t an abstract blanket overlaid on the nation, it’s a living tapestry knit from individual, red-blooded American journalists who each do their part to ensure a free-flowing pipeline of ideas to crisscross a thriving electorate.
We got the newspaper out that day and we went on with our lives. Vigils were held, candles were lit, discussions were had. All planes were stopped that day, as well as trains and other modes of transport. America closed in as one patriotic heartbeat and cleared the messes at the Pentagon, Shanksville, and especially NYC. Many groups and first responders streamed toward those places in the moments, days, weeks, and months afterward to clean up and rebuild. It was a while before things got back to normal. But that’s what we do. We’re America.
I wasn’t saved then. I noted that in the few Sundays after the event many churches were filled with seekers asking the big questions. I had big questions, too. Where did people go when they died? Why would someone do this? We in our town felt especially aggrieved because we lost a town son in the Pentagon. We were also aggrieved because hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari terrorists had used “our” nearby airport at Portland to get to Boston, where they boarded the fateful plane.
Many headlines then and even today state something like “America changed that day”. We look back on how different we were then and how old we feel now. Old, weary, changed. I am changed massively. I am now saved by grace of Jesus Christ. I have eternal life and a bright future ahead. I have the big questions answered- why are we here? (to glorify God and enjoy Him forever). Where do we go when we die? (heaven if in Christ, hell if not).
John MacArthur on Why did 9/11 happen? (3-min clip)
There are two kinds of deaths: death for the glory of God and death for the maniacal glee of satan. Reader, consider our sin nature and consider the powerful influence of satan. We are all born sinners and sin from the start. (Psalm 51:5). We cannot please God and indeed, we don’t want to. We want to satisfy our lusts and our flesh and indulge our sin. The flesh only has corrupt passions, not holy ones. That’s fine by us- until God intervenes and replaces our corrupt heart with the Holy Spirit and changes our affections.
Satan comes along and whispers to the sinner. Do this. Do that. Adultery is just following your heart. Your heart made a mistake, adultery is just a little correction. Go ahead, steal that. You deserve it. Hate your neighbor? He isn’t worth your love.
How monstrous though, that satan and our flesh can convince ourselves that there is a distant mercurial god named Allah. How grotesque that in wanting to serve this god you rationalize destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of materiel, kill thousands of people, and destroy yourself in the process. We’re not talking about stealing a box of paper clips from work or glancing at a women lustfully. We are talking a mass holocaust of a national emergency and thousands of lives gone in the blink of an eye. Four people caused this. Only 4. Satan was satisfied that day.
Satan is powerful enough to convince a sinner of all these things. Flesh is all too willing to believe that such murder is a service to God.
Jesus said that the zealous Jews would kill them and while doing it think they were offering a service unto God.
They will ban you from the synagogue, yet an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering a service to God. (John 16:2).
For this is not to be understood of their being delivered up into the hands of civil magistrates, and of their being tried, judged, condemned, and put to death by their orders, but of their being murdered by a set of men called "zealots"; who, in imitation of Phinehas, as they pretended, took upon them, whenever they found any person guilty of a capital crime, as idolatry, blasphemy, &c. or what they judged so, to fall upon him at once, and without any more ado kill him; nor were they accountable to any court of judicature for such an action, and which was reckoned laudable and praiseworthy: in this way, and by the hands of such miscreants, Stephen the protomartyr lost his life (Gill's Commentary)
We are all sinners. We are all terrorists in God’s economy, rebelling and usurping and hating Him. Now, we are not all as bad as we all can be, this is obviously true because we are not all flying planes into buildings and thinking that as a mass murderer we are rendering service to our god. However all unsaved people have that potential. Satan knows this. I don’t know what was going through Mohammed Atta’s mind that day as he passed through Portland security, just a few miles where we were busy brewing coffee and setting up the paper for that week’s edition. I was unsaved, he was unsaved. I was diligently offering service to my community with the paper, he was diligently offering service to his false god through murder.
Larry King the TV interview host asked pastor-teacher John MacArthur onto his show days after 9/11. Larry asked JMac, “What does it mean?” That is the basic question of life. It’s never more brought to the fore when something like war, or a holocaust, or a terror attack happens and a lot of people die. What does it mean? JMac replied,
“It means you’re going to die and you’re not in control of when.”
We all live forever. We either dwell in glorified body with Christ in joy, or we dwell in gloomy hellish darkness in body fitted for fiery punishment. The difference in our destination is Christ, through repentance for our sins.
The moment the plane hit the tower and Mohammed Atta and his cohort died, they were catapulted into hellish darkness to eternally burn in fiery punishment for their service to satan. Some who were Christians, like Jim Cleere, were catapulted instantly in to the presence of Jesus. His widow Jean has the hope of reuniting with her lost husband, who they never found, in heaven at the feet of Jesus.
If the difference in our deaths is repentance because of Jesus’ work on the cross, then the result of that difference is eternal hope rather than eternal despair. Christians who have dealt with their sin have the hope of eternal life. Atta hoped he had eternal life, but wasn’t assured of it because no one outside of Jesus can be sure. He discovered his mistake only seconds later, but has an eternity to pay for it. All other sinners, ‘good’ people but unsaved; like waiters in the restaurant at the top of the tower, workers for the government at the Pentagon, brave souls on the PA plane who thwarted the Capitol attack, also joined Atta in hell to pay for their own crimes and treason against the one true God.
It has been twenty years since that day. Atta and anyone else who died on the day outside of Jesus is in hell. Twenty years is nothing. It is but a flash of a moment.
It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: for “who knows the power of God’s anger?” (Jonathan Edwards: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God).
You are going to die. You are not in control of when. The lesson of 9/11 is sin, repentance, hope, and ultimately, Jesus. Jesus saves.