Twenty years ago we had been in the US just one year. Everything was still new to us, One aspect of life that surprised me was the sheer ease of transport. Most months I had taken flights to some new state in order to speak or preach. (I was the new boy on the block!) Someone had told me that getting on a plane was like catching a bus. It really was! So casual and straightforward.
On the morning of 9/11 I was up early. Carol called out to me: 'Turn on the TV something awful is happening!' And with so many across the world we couldn't believe what we were watching as the second plane flew into the Twin Towers and yet another into the Pentagon. Shock waves were intense. My phone rang. The Seminary President was out of town and he called to ask me to lead a service at the Seminary for the college community and for others in the surrounding community that morning. He said I would know what to do!
I have never led a service like it - all of us numbed in utter bewilderment, sadness and fear. People from surrounding offices, police, and fire brigade joined in. In the main quadrangle our service was simple with Scripture, quiet, prayers and just a few words. What could you say? Soon stories of personal tragedies multiplied. Grief pervaded every conversation.
On this twentieth anniversary there is much reflection on the changes inflicted on the US and the world by this event. It has overshadowed the first part of the twenty-first century. Immediately, the easy going, casual straightforward life-style we had enjoyed for a year was over. I was interim pastor at First Baptist Church, Wheaton, and due to preach the following Sunday. I really didn't want to. It was quite a learning experience........