Alan Jackson's post-9/11 lyrical query and my blog title beg an answer. And I've answered that question many times in my mind. I had just gotten home from a night shift at the Waynesboro (VA) Police Department. I sat down to eat my "dinner" (a.k.a., breakfast) before going to bed, and there on the TV screen, I saw it...the first tower burning. Honestly, I didn't think much of it. I just figured a plane going into JFK or LaGuardia had gotten a little off course and slammed into the building. But then it happened...I, along with millions of others worldwide, watched live as the second plane careened into the adjacent tower. At that point, we all knew it was terrorism.
Within a year, I was mobilized with my National Guard unit to deploy in support of the war effort. Still reeling from shock and, admittedly, seeking a bit of retribution, we gladly spent a year away from our families providing external security for the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Although disappointed not to be posted in the Middle East, we felt like contributors nonetheless. At least we were doing something to rid the world of evil.
By 2003, I was back in the United States, finally realizing that my life would never be the same. Until 9/11, I had lived in a semi-fairytale story. Life seemed so simple...even black and white at times. But two years of living in the shadow of terror and evil had "wised me up." It was time to get busy with life...and with God's mission for my life.
In the years that followed, I found myself attending seminary, going through chaplain training with the Army, deploying again (this time to the Middle East), starting a family, spending a number of years teaching and administrating in Christian higher education, and eventually becoming a pastor. Today, I am the senior pastor of a medium-sized Methodist church in Virginia, have five children, direct a social media ministry, and every day seek to improve my character and deepen my walk of faith. Unfortunately, I also run the rat-race of life with everyone else who strives to achieve the contemporary American "dream." It seems the world that stopped turning on 9/11 is rotating more rapidly today than it ever did before. The years tick by faster and faster, I get older and older, and the time I have remaining for legacy-making and positive impact gets shorter and shorter.
Even so, I often find myself sitting at home in the quiet of the evening (as I am now), listening intently to the silence around me. In that silence, the world slows down little by little until, finally, it ceases all movement. Then, as the crickets crackle and the wind gently whistles past the windows and doors, I remember that day again...the uneaten dinner, the gaze of disbelief at a smoke-filled TV screen, the fear, and the anger. And I say thank you to all the brave men and women who gave their lives that day and in the days that followed...just as the world starts to turn again.