18 Years Later

My second year of college, I lived in a suite with seven other girls whom I laughed with and fought with and loved. That Tuesday morning, one of my quadmates Tracy and I had a class together, and I was getting annoyed because she was dawdling because she didn’t feel well and was probably going to make me late.

Another quadmate Megan, pre-med, had an early lab that morning and returned to our place, breathless as she reached for the remote. She clicked on the news, saying, “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center!”

My first image was of some podunk, rogue new pilot who had accidentally somehow managed to bump into the building.

But the people on the news seemed serious, and Tracy sat down on the couch next to Megs to watch. “We need to go,” I told her.

She waved me off, still watching the screen. “I’m not going to go. You can leave.”

I stomped off to Nazareth Hall, upset and annoyed that I would be late now without a partner in crime. When I got to the fourth floor, someone in my class had turned on the TV in the room, and now the news was reporting on the crash at the Pentagon. Everyone was transfixed. I clearly remember thinking, Is this the end of the world?

Our teacher made us turn off the TV. I don’t think anyone quite realized yet that this would be one of our nation’s biggest tragedies. We talked in class about leadership. I don’t remember anything specific about it.

At Northwestern College, we had chapel every morning at 10:30 am (CST). As the student body was making its way to Maranatha Auditorium from all areas of campus, everyone was buzzing about the news. I was in the Totino stairwell talking animatedly about the towers being hit when John, a friend from freshman year, said, “I think the bigger deal is that it has collapsed.”

Wait, what?

I remember being in complete shock– how could a small plane collapse a skyscraper? It wasn’t until a week or so later when I saw in a magazine an illustrated cross-section of the tower with an overlaid plane, as if seen from above. Then it made more sense.

In chapel, they had a live news feed playing over the giant screen above the stage. The student body watched, cried, prayed. They let the feed play all day, and students came in and out to watch and pray.

I was shell-shocked, since my sister Kristin and my dad had been in New York City only two weeks earlier. They had pictures of themselves from the roof of the WTC. Even though I knew they were safe and in Minnesota, I kept picturing them on top of that building, knowing that someone else’s sister and dad had to be in the building that day, my heart breaking for them and so relieved that my family had escaped such personal devastation by fewer than 14 days.

Everyone at my school kept saying, “This did not surprise God; this did not surprise God,” and I knew that Northwestern was the very best place for me to sort through the tragedy. It was heartbreaking but beautiful to grieve with a community that both loved and trusted God’s sovereignty in spite of the destruction and sadness.

What a day. Sometimes it is hard to believe that it has been over a decade since then. Sometimes it feels like it’s been even longer. My dad says he always remembers what he was doing when he found out JFK was shot. I suppose this is my generation’s event. It makes me sad even to write about it today, all these years later.

One thing I know: September 11, 2001, did not surprise my good and perfect God. I continue to trust Him.

This post was originally written on September 11, 2012

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