What if we crash and burn?

The events of September 11, 2001, ache and rumble in One Tuesday Morning, by Karen Kingsbury.

In her novel, Kingsbury writes convincingly and with compassion of the horrors of the day when America came under attack and the lives of everyday people in America changed forever.

This book has been around for years. I've only recently read it. I was only going to review the book, but there is more to write.

Before the towers fell
When the call went out, Jake Bryan and his fire fighter buddies rushed into the World Trade Center while others fled. That morning he didn't believe he may be kissing his wife Jamie for the last time and leaving his daughter fatherless. Firefighting was what he loved to do. And he had a deal with God. Didn't he?

That evening in the hospital room, Jamie was horrified when Jake didn't recognize her. How could he forget their life together? The doctors explained that head injuries could be tricky and would take time to heal. But, how could they rebuild their lives when he could only recognize their small daughter Sierra?

Jamie yearned for more than his handsome face and athletic body to come home. She wanted Jake to remember how much he had once loved her. She wanted all of her husband to come back to her. But when memories surfaced, they added confusion, not clarity, and brought new pain and loss.

One Tuesday Morning, by Karen Kingsbury graphically reminds readers how fragile life is and how the presence of God is at work even in the darkest of times.

For me, reading this book was more than a good read on a rainy day in the Pacific Northwest. Kingsbury's fictional account offered a chance to process those events and their aftermath in the light of faith. There is a healing power at work in this story that reaches beyond the words and images on the page.

I remember where I was on that Tuesday morning. Do you? My husband and I were at jobs in Virginia. That morning was a rare opportunity for us to commute together from our home in Maryland across the American Legion Bridge to Virginia, since most weeks, he worked at other work sites. David had just dropped me off at my office in Chantilly. I'd no sooner fired up my computer and begun pounding away at the keyboard, than I noticed fellow office workers gathering in a nearby cubicle watching events on a computer screen. Horrifying events. Chilling. What was going on? We huddled.

Within an hour we were sent home. Getting home took hours. I was so grateful I didn't have to drive by myself that day. Roads were horribly congested in the greater Washington, D.C.-area. We thought it would be quicker to drive the back roads to cross the Potomac River at Point of Rocks Bridge instead of trying to cross the American Legion Bridge. We didn't know if it was even still there. No one knew if the terror was over yet. Would other major areas be hit soon? We finally got home, hours later, to our youngest teen-aged son alone at home. We all just wanted to find the people we loved, to call them, and find comfort together. We prayed.

I didn't personally know anyone who was hurt or killed in the attacks in New York City, the Pentagon, or the crash in Pennsylvania. But, I knew people who knew people. My neighbor worked at the Pentagon. Some of my co-workers worked on contracts for the Pentagon where people they knew died or were forever changed by the experience.

For a long time, people waved flags from bridges, overpasses, car windows. Flags hung from homes. My son hung a flag from his bedroom window that had covered his great-grandfather's casket; the flag was a gift from the government for his WWI service. People wore ribbons on blazers and stuck bumper stickers on cars.

When he got the chance, our youngest son joined the Army, in part because of 9/11. He served in Iraq. And we were grateful he came home, walking. Other servicemembers who were also inspired to do something because of 9/11 didn't come home walking.

In the weeks and years following 9/11, life changed in America. For ordinary citizens like me, we ran into changes mostly at the airport. And we were glad, for a time, to uncomplainingly relinquish some rights for greater safety. I didn't mind taking off my shoes. As I continue to get older, I'm now glad we have ways to allow people to go through security without doing that. But, it is a small thing really.

We noticed more barriers were erected over time around government buildings in Washington, D.C. And there were streets, like the one near the Capitol building and the White House that only pedestrians were allowed to use. Suspicious cars and innocent cars, with foreign or domestic plates, all cars, except select government workers, were forced to keep their distance.

And, even today, years later, there are many other changes underway still.

In a post-9/11 world, we each do what we can, don't we, for ourselves and for those we have the power to protect? We lock doors, buckle up and drive safely.

We were inspired by the example of ordinary plane passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who huddled in alliance and fought back, sacrificing their lives to avert a greater tragedy. We still admire their bravery and sacrifice. We do what we can and hope we can do more than we think we can, if we have a choice.

But, I wonder, can we ever be completely safe?

As a small person in a big world, where anything can happen, aware I can only do so much to protect myself and those I love, I'm learning to put my trust for security in our all powerful God. Yes, He may allow difficult times to crash my life into irretrievable pieces. Or, He may rescue me in ways I cannot see because of my wise actions or another's. But since there is only so much we can do to keep ourselves, our neighbors, and those we love safe, when can we ever stop doing things out of fear and really feel safe? When is it ever enough?

As a Christian, I believe God is a greater refuge than any barriers we build or alliances we negotiate. So, when I worry or am afraid, I would be wise to remember the psalmist's words:

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Does that mean we will never be among the few who crash and burn? Maybe not. But, if we do find ourselves in moments of decision in life or death situations, may we take up the challenge to do what we have been practicing every day: May we each do what we can for good, confident that a powerful God can hold us and steady us when we and all around us shake. May we find rest in God.


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