Carol was talking to me about the bitter morning when terrorists struck the New York Twin Towers and our reactions in September 2001. It was our first full year in the US and alongside teaching in seminary I was interim preacher at First Baptist Church, Wheaton. She said, 'Do you remember how you had to preach in all the shock on the next Sunday?' I do, and I looked back on my notes today. As I read the sermon's beginning I cannot help but contrast the kind of shock the US was feeling compared with today. I began like this:
On Tuesday morning from 6:30 I finished preparing the sermon for today. It was on Abraham...but it's not for today. Because just as I was leaving early for the office Carol shouted out: Quick, put on the TV - something terrible is happening.' And it was. We have been in shock this week ever since. We have witnessed things we have never seen before. One reporter said; "Note this. America changed forever at 9 :29 September 11 2001. At 9:28 with the twin towers on fire it was surreal and frightening and we watched with fear. I was on the streets below. At 9:29 the first people jumped to their death and then we knew it was real and we were scared.' We were scared. Everyone of us who lives in America, who belongs to this generous, freedom loving nation has been shaken and shocked to the core. There were images in our minds unfolding before our eyes, that we shall never be able to forget. The passenger plane flying into the side of the second tower. The towers crumbling, the scenes at ground zero. People trapped and sending last messages, I love you' I don't know what you did? Did you call someone and talk and talk. Or go very quiet. How you expressed sadness or anger?
I went on to preach Psalm 46. Maybe I'll look at that shortly. But it struck me looking back how this sudden disaster had hit us so visibly. We saw the disaster unfold and the casualties hit us viscerally. And how different today's disastrous virus is. Because most of us do not see suddenness. Its very stealth and invisibility make it a very different experience to deal with. And a much more difficult experience to deal with too. The virus' impact is deadly and it is slow burn .Sadly, some will have grim images in their minds of loved ones suffering. But for so many of us it is still out there... unseen. Coping with it requires long-term faith and hope. We need to hear Ps. 24: 1: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way.