Finishing a consultation at the Writing Center, that’s where I was when the first planes hit the World Trade Center. I was in my junior year that the Naval Academy and looking forward to graduation the following year. With approximately 1200 teenagers, I recited the Oath of Office a couple years prior.
I, [state your name], promise to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.
Much like saying the prayer of salvation, the words flow easily off your lips when there is no perceived threat, no clear assurance of danger. Until that point, I agreed to an ideal. I was willing to lay down my life for my friends. I was willing to fight for my country. At eighteen years old living in America during a time of peace and prosperity, however, there was no thought given as to whether or not I would actually have to fight.
September 11, 2001 changed all of that. By the time I walked across the campus to my room, another plane hit the Pentagon. Cell phones were not working. My classmates wanted to go to war now, in spite of the fact that many of them had not fired a weapon in two years. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day. Eyes were glued to the news stations. There was so much uncertainty in the air, but I understood one reality, “America was under attack and we were going to war.” Fighting was no longer a matter of if, but when. September 11th changed everything.
What September 11th did not change, however, was my relationship with God. In the days following people flocked to churches. Folks who resented prayer and organized religion found themselves on their knees. People started questioning their life’s purpose, their jobs, their family situations, relationships, and priorities.
Like all other natural disasters, people asked questions about fairness and justice. How could God allow such a thing to happen? During periods of fear and tragedy, it is a timeless question, “Where was God?”
Where was God on September 11th? The difficult is response is, “God is where he has always been.” God is sitting on the throne reigning, making his name great throughout the earth, and giving himself glory. God is still righteous and he is still just, even when Americans are attacked. That same God who is so far away, assures us that he is also near to us especially in the midst of our suffering (Psalm 34:18, 145:18-19, 147:3). God is using all things to draw his people back to himself and to make the wonderful testimony that Jesus is Lord of all.
Where was God on September 11th? His Spirit was working in my heart, in the heart of this man, and in the hearts of those around him:
Where was God on September 11th? Where were you?
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011