Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles by the Rev. Tim Rynearson, chaplain of the Brookings Fire Department, on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
When we think of the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, we usually think of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City. Thart was where the greatest number were killed. Yet, this was not the only place that was destroyed that day. At 9:37 a.m, about 45 minutes after the first tower was hit, a plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Then another 30 minutes later another plane hit the ground in Pennsylvania.
One hundred eighty nine people died at the Pentagon. 125 people were killed in the Pentagon plus the 64 passengers on the plane (including the five hijackers). The death toll on the ground would have been much higher except that the part of the building which was hit had just been renovated and only a portion of the people had moved back into their offices. After the crash all those who were in the building above the crash site were able to make it out alive.
Forty people died in a field in Pennsylvania (plus the hijackers). Their plane left late from Newark. After they were hijacked people on the plane were able to call their loved ones and others and they found out about the other planes. The group decided to take on the hijackers. Because of their bravery and persistence, the pilot decided to crash the plane in a field. The plane was most likely headed for the Capitol Building in Washington.
At both locations there are now national parks. The websites of these parks give pictures and brief biographies of the people who were killed. What I hadn’t remembered was that families were on those planes taking vacations, or going to visit relatives. The youngest victim was 3, the oldest was 71. They were just ordinary folks.
What would drive the hijackers to do such a terrible thing? Why did they think their cause was so just that they would murder thousands of people?
The terrorists had their reasons. They hated the commercialism and trade of the United States. They despised the involvement of our government in many nations.
They felt they were right in getting back at us for all we had done wrong in their eyes throughout the world. They believed god was calling on them to cleanse the world. They wanted revenge.
Scripture says clearly: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, Deuteronomy 32:35). We are horrified when we see others think they are right in taking revenge and forget how often our own hearts cry out when we think we are mistreated. We want fairness, justice, people to acknowledge we have been wronged, and then to make it right.
We complain when we don’t get our way. That’s a whole lot better than harming someone else. Better still would be to move on by helping others. To be specific, Sept. 11 is a time to remember those who lost so much and to pray for them that God might support them in their pain and ongoing sorrow. It’s also time to swallow our own pride and reach out to those who have caused us trouble, to reestablish relationships, to look to God for help in our need, and finally to remember that he took care of our sin by placing it on his Son. We have been given his love, we are called to share that with others.