Sixteen years ago this month, our nation was forever changed by the attack of Islamic terrorists on our citizens and our way of life. The faces of those who perished that day still stare at the living from picture frames on walls and the pages of photo albums in homes across our country. The images of those lost all those years ago will never grow older, while we the living continue to age.
Consider the recent news about our country. America today has a media suspicious of the current presidential administration and that same administration is equally suspicious of the media. People have violently clashed over issues related to statues of men long dead, veterans of a war fought more than a century and a half ago. It seems that the news consumer is daily confronted by a media maelstrom of division and disunion. Where is the united America today that existed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001?
The America to which I refer still exists, though people could be forgiven if they thought it gone because of the media’s seemingly endless fascination with bad news. A united America’s existence is confirmed by a Biblical principle displayed fully on September 11, 2001. The Chaplains could easily direct the Rio Family to the words of Jesus Christ in John 15:13 to summarize this principle: “Greater love have no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
On September 11, 2001, 343 New York firefighters and law enforcement officers representing ten different agencies showed the world this principle by giving their lives in an attempt to save others at the World Trade Center. Meanwhile, the passengers of United Flight 93 sacrificed their lives to save the lives of Americans in Washington D.C.. Some individuals died that day for love of friends; others did so for the benefit of strangers. Many may have been strangers in life, but they were united in death on a terrible day for our country. May the heroics of that day never be forgotten.
The people who practiced the principle from John 15:13, whether they were religious or not, demonstrate a bold contrast between the Judeo-Christian heritage of the United States, a heritage which nurtures a people and society that practices such principles versus the view of the terrorists, who embraced death in an act of mass murder as a form of worship.
What made America great that September day still exists today. It is not bickering politicians or ideologically driven media that sustains America. It is the ordinary American who follows the principle stated in John 15:13 each morning when they put on the uniform of our country’s armed services, or the uniform of the various law enforcement and emergency service departments across our country. Love of country and community is the invisible part of their uniforms these Americans wear each day. They know well that they may be asked to show this greater love before the end of the day and the uniform each wears symbolizes devotion to that duty.
Even those Americans who do not wear a uniform can also exhibit the principle of no greater love when they risk life and limb in an effort to save others during times of crisis, such as the recent hurricane and flooding in Texas. Thus, the nobility of America is not found in a political speech or a newscaster’s script. It is found in the decent acts of Americans both in and out of uniform who intervene in the face of evil on behalf of life.
Tonight, as you are home with your own family, spare a thought for those whose loved ones will not be waiting at home for them this evening, gone sixteen years because of what happened on September 11, 2001. Say a prayer for those families and a prayer of thanks to God that we have Americans, both in and out of uniform, who are willing to show sacrificial love for their fellow citizens.
William E. Plants
URG Chaplaincy Coordinator