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It began as a normal day
By Jeremy Reynalds
Along with millions of other Americans, Tuesday September 11th started off as a normal day for me. I woke up in Los Angeles, expecting to get the first plane back to Albuquerque, New Mexico where I had plans to put in a full day's work at the office. However, my plans were about to change.
By 5.30 a.m. Pacific Time I was at Los Angeles Airport. I grabbed a cup of coffee, stood in line and obtained my boarding pass. About 6.40 a.m. I heard rumors my plane had been delayed for about an hour-and-a-half but at that time I didn't know why. I wasn't overly concerned as I had a couple of good books to read. My plans changed a little.
A few minutes later an announcement came over the intercom from another airline stating that one of their flights which had originally been scheduled to leave at the same time as mine would not be leaving until 3 p.m. at the earliest. Something was mentioned about a terrorist attack in New York. I soon discovered that my flight wouldn't leave till about 3 p.m. either. My plans changed even more.
Realizing that something serious must be happening, I made my way over to a bank of televisions where an ever-increasing number of people were gathering. I quickly found out the full extent of the disaster. Terrorists had hijacked four commercial planes, and dive bombed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania Countryside. The damage was so bad that the 110-story World Trade Center had been obliterated.
As the growing crowd of people around me glued to the television increased and as they realized what had happened, faces turned grim and some people shook their heads in apparent disbelief that such a tragic scenario was unfolding in America. While there was no visible screaming or sobbing (perhaps because the full impact of this dramatic nightmare that was unfolding before our eyes hadn't yet sunk in), it nonetheless seemed there was a feeling among those watching that we had just suffered at the very least a collective punch in the gut.
Still having no idea how much my plans were going to change for that day (though nothing in comparison to the terrible tragedies suffered by those who gave their lives or lost loved ones) I thought that I would just "hang out" at the airport and get that 3 p.m. plane back home.
While waiting, I did some radio interviews for the new media describing the general mood at LAX and what was happening in general. One reporter's question gave me a chance to share my faith. She asked, "How do you feel about flying today?"
After a quick prayer asking the Lord for help, I answered, "You know, every time I fly I pray and place my life in the Lord's Hands. In that sense, this day is no different. I'll pray and entrust my life to the Lord."
I hope that I didn't sound arrogant but I am never more aware than when I am flying of my own mortality. And I don't wait for a day of national tragedy to ask the Lord for His help and protection; I seek it on a daily basis!
However, a few minutes later my wife called and with the intuition that only a wife has suggested that I should rent a car. She added that I should do so quickly as she suspected a number of other people may have the same idea. I agreed and reserved a car at the company from whom I usually rent.
How glad I was that I did so, as within a few minutes of confirming my reservation, my airline asked everyone to come back up the desk, where they recalled my boarding pass and cancelled my flight. Within a few minutes of that happening, an announcement was made that every flight in the entire country was being grounded Tuesday. A few minutes later, an order was given for the airport to be evacuated. People exited quickly, but nonetheless in an orderly fashion, and Los Angeles Airport, normally a maelstrom of activity, quickly became a ghost town. I made my way over to the car rental company, picked up my car after making sure that I had been given adequate directions, (a nice way of describing my sense of direction is to call me directionally challenged) and started driving.
At various and sometimes unexpected times throughout the long drive I caught glimpses of a shaken America. Pulling off the highway at an outlet mall to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks, a tersely written sign taped to the door and scratched on a brown paper bag announced, "Closed, due to national tragedy." However, seeing there were still people inside I poked my nose in and asked the two or three people sitting there if there was still chance of a cup of coffee. The girl who answered me, who appeared to be in her late teens and only barely able to keep her composure, answered, "Sorry, we really are closed." I wondered if she'd lost loved ones in the tragedy or if like me, she was wondering how this could happen in America. Her plans had changed too.
Pulling in to a truck stop a few hours later to make a phone call, I heard a burly trucker in the phone booth next to me announce to someone, "Just calling to check in and tell you that I love you. I'll be home tomorrow." Maybe he calls home (or wherever) regularly to "check in." If not, I hope that he continues the practice. Sometimes it takes a national crisis to cause us to take inventory and do a reality check on what really matters in life.
Returning back to the highway for my next long driving stint, I gazed up at the sky at frequent intervals and realized what a phenomenon I was seeing. Not a single plane to be seen in the sky. By the lack of what I was seeing, I was witnessing history.
At my next rest stop I wandered into a truck stop full of televisions where not surprisingly everyone in the store had gravitated toward the section housing the televisions, which were all tuned in to CNN. Nobody seemed to be saying much; everyone just seemed to be trying to absorb the fact that the carnage they were witnessing wasn't occurring in a backwater nation ruled by an iron fisted despot, but it was happening right here in America.
During the journey, I also sampled whatever radio stations I could pick up. After having listened to the news, listeners seemed glad that talk radio was giving them some sort of outlet for a collective (as one talk show host put it) chat around the electronic fireside. Not surprisingly, many listeners were angry; but at the same time exercising a disbelief that with all of our sophisticated intelligence gathering techniques that a tragedy of such proportions could occur in America.
The electronic opportunity to "vent" (at least on the stations I listened to) didn't seem to bring out the worst, most vindictive side in people. That was left to e mail and the Internet. For example. One e mail on a list I subscribe to read (sic) BUSH DID *ALL* OF IT - TO CLAMP DOWN ON CIVIL LIBERTIES, TO TAKE EVERYONE'S MIND OFF THE ECONOMY, TO TAKE EVERYONE'S MIND OFF THE STOLEN ELECTION, TO CLOSE UNIVERSITIES ... TO GET HIS STAR WARS INITIATIVE PASSED, TO GET HIS MILITARY BUDGET PASSED, AND TO STOP THE 100, 000 PROTESTERS FROM GOING TO D.C. ON 9/29. Now, no one will be able to protest Bu$h, as the "First Amendment Zones" will be expanded! Bu$h is a FASCIST MURDERER AND WARMONGER, AND EVERYONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS IT.
Then an article on an internet web site proclaimed, "CIA Officials Reveal What Went Wrong Clinton to Blame."
But these folk are missing the point. Now is not the time to assign blame and point fingers without at least proposing a solution. And the answer is that if you feel angry, violated and vulnerable, to let those emotions drive you, (as Focus on the Family so articulately put it) "seek refuge in the eternal."
So while you reflect on the events of the last few days, think about your plans and how how quickly your life can change. Make sure you let your loved ones know how much you appreciate them and see how the overall direction you have planned for your life relates to what is written in the Book of James Chapter Four verses 13 through 15. (Living Bible) "Look here you people who say, Today or tomorrow we are going to such and such a town, stay there for a year and open up a profitable business.' How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow?
For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog-now you see it; soon it is gone. What you ought to say is, If the Lord wants us to we shall live and do this or that.'"
May this unspeakably horrible tragedy cause you to just that.
Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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