A Crisis Not Wasted

Today’s reflection is going to be a departure from my daily posts. I am re-running a column I did for a local newspaper after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. The current COVID-19 crisis that Americans (and the rest of the world) currently face is an opportunity to respond in a way that will make us better for having gone through it.

In that old column, I pointed out that the very things that are meant for destruction can highlight a new dawn if we “use the crisis well” I reprint this column in the hope that it is an encouragement to you.

 The effects of the murderous terrorist attacks last week will be felt for a very long time. There are many painful, sad, gut wrenching results, of course. But there have been, and will continue to be, good things that come out of this awful tragedy.  The terrorists intended pure evil, but some of the effects will be to our everlasting good.

The terrorists intended to cause pain and death, fear and chaos. They wanted to plant the seed that we are not safe anywhere. They wanted us to see that we are vulnerable, and that we can no longer feel insulated from the events around the world that some people live with daily. They correctly understand that we have depended upon our national intelligence network, the FBI, CIA, and various other governmental agencies for our security. While these agencies are now under scrutiny, and even attack, by many Americans for not having protected us, I do not join in that attack.  I recognize that no agency, no government is able to totally protect us. 

Americans want guarantees. We want to make sure that someone is responsible if something goes wrong. We want to feel like we are a special people, never having had foreign invaders on our soil at least since, perhaps, the War of 1812. We want to feel that we are safe from the wars and killing on foreign shores. The events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 changed all that forever.

What the terrorists did was to wake us from that unreality. We are vulnerable to attack, and we cannot totally guarantee safety. Indeed, the terrorists taught us a painful lesson. But at the same time, the terrorists sowed in us the seed of new growth. They unintentionally reminded us (or taught some of us for the first time) that our safety and security is not in the hands of the government, as great as that government is. The terrorists sparked the nation to turn in unprecedented numbers to God for protection, guidance and comfort. Immediately after the attacks that day, people were mobilized to turn to God in prayer. Churches, synagogues and mosques opened their doors to people to come together and pray. We were instantly reminded that our help is in God.  So, unwittingly, these evil men helped to turn us to dependence on the only One who can protect and heal us.

Indeed too, out of the physical rubble in New York City, comes the renewed resolve to rebuild. We will rebuild the buildings, and we will renew our love for our country and one another. America has always responded to challenges, and she has always come through it stronger and a little wiser. The terrorists did not understand that in the rubble and pain that they caused, they also planted seeds of hope, strength, and renewal. Those seeds will grow and make us stronger as a nation.

Earlier in this column I mentioned the War of 1812. One of the things that came out of that war was the Star Spangled Banner, written, of course, by Francis Scott Key as he watched the British attack on Baltimore. As I listened intently these past few days to the words of the National Anthem, I heard at a new level the words “… and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there…” The very bombs that were meant to rain destruction, actually lit up the night, and gave proof that our flag still stood. The same aggression that the terrorists rained on us on September 11, will give proof that we still stand, stronger than ever.

From Point of View, September 14, 2001

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