On September 11, 2001, I was working in downtown Clayton in a 9-story building. My department was located on the 6th floor with windows facing Lambert St. Louis Airport. I remember when a guy walked in and said he had just heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Many of us in the room speculated on how someone could accidentally hit such an obvious obstacle, but we also knew it had happened before.
One of our salesman, who had just been to the WTC the week before, barged into a conference room meeting, grabbed the television cart and wheeled it into our area. This salesman began telling how huge the WTC towers were and how massive the complex was. We watched as the continuous footage of the smoke billowing from the building played in front of us and listened as the newsman attempted to figure out what had happened and what size the plane was that hit. Early accounts stated a small plane, but the evidence to that was to the contrary.
This is what we were watching:
The moment the second plane hit, people were utterly shocked. As we watched the pictures stream across the television, we listened to the professional news people attempt to find words to describe what they too had just seen. The room erupted into speculation as to what this meant. We remained glued to the tube as we heard rumors and stories of other planes being hijacked. One rumor we heard in our building was that a plane was headed towards downtown Baltimore. As nervous and excited as we all were, nobody was going anywhere. We were all mesmerized with what was unfolding.
And then the first tower fell. As it fell, gasps went up across the room and people began crying quite loudly. While I knew that people had died when I saw the second plane hit, I did not comprehend their deaths at that time. It was in the moment the first tower began crumbling to the ground that I realized I was watching people die as it happened. The tears flowed openly at this point.
The room was silent except for the sobbing of people devastated by what they had just seen. We weren’t mourning the loss of a building or the loss of some ideological freedom. We were mourning those we knew had just died. As the moments passed, people began to wonder aloud how that building could fall like that and how fast it had happened.
Before we could recover from that shock, the second tower came down. Everyone was visibly shaken at this point and people began calling their loved ones. Some people left to go be with their families, going to pick up their kids from school.
We sat in wonder as we watched plane after plane land at the airport, one right after the other. We kept a nervous eye to the sky, very conscious of the fact that our building stood out against the skyline. At lunch we went to Bandana’s and kept watching the TV. The salesman who had just returned from New York City exclaimed with teary eyes “Somebody is going to pay for this! Someone has to pay for this!” Strangers at neighboring tables chimed in with their whole-hearted agreement and we all continued watching the devastating news.
As I made my way home, I was greatly impacted by the eerie silence that surrounded the airport and the sight of seeing all those planes parked wing to wing on every foot of concrete surrounding the runway. I looked to the skies and was not calmed by the fact that I couldn’t see any traces of airplanes soaring above.
We had a special church service that night and it was pack. People were sitting in the aisles and standing in the back. I have no recollection of what was said that night, but I do remember the intimacy in those quiet moments that I felt amongst a throng of strangers. Everyone wanted to be with other people. We wanted to grieve openly and honestly with each other. People turned toward God and entered churches for the first time in a long time.
I remember the buildings.
I remember the planes.
I remember the people who died that day.
I remember the sadness and anger that I felt.
I remember how motivated I felt to impact my world for Christ.
I remember praying for the strength, courage and heart to share God with people.
Today I remember the events and feelings of that day in 2001.
Today I remember the Cross.