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20th Anniversary of 9/11 (09.15.21)

Published 9/15/21

This past weekend was the 20th Anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy.  It is hard to believe that 20 years have passed, but the fact is it happened 9-11-2001, and that was 20 years ago.  A famous writer, Dr. John Maxwell said, “Life is like toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it rolls.” 

                I remember the very minute we saw the plane go into the twin towers in New York, New York.  It was happening during the 7am news, that I normally watch every day.  We thought it interesting until we started hearing about other planes hitting other places. I believe there was a second plane that hit another tower, and a plane hit the Pentagon outside Washington, DC.  Then the plane that might have been headed to the White House came down in a Pennsylvania country side.   

                My oldest child, my daughter, came down to the family room asking me, “Dad, is this the end?  What is happening? What’s going on? Is this the rapture?”  She was 20 years old and was just starting college. Our middle child, my son, who was 18 was in his senior year of High School.  They both were now in the family room with me.  As I was beginning to attempt to answer, my wife of 22 years walked in holding our youngest child and son who was just turning 3 years old.   

                They were all waiting for an answer to what the next few days, weeks, months, and years would be like in America and in our family.  I must admit I did pray that day, around 6am, but nothing was said to me about this special day.  So, as I struggled to come up with an answer that would not only inform but comfort, my mind went blank.  I had been pastoring 21 years at the time, 11 years of them in Wheeling, WV, but nothing prepared me for this moment.  

                I gave them all the best answer I had at the time.  It was informational but it was not comforting.  Although it was informational, I don’t think it was the information they were seeking.  My answer was “I do not know.  Only God knows!”  What we did do is have our family devotion, and we prayed for America, for those who lost someone, and for all of our futures. 

                This was of importance to me because that Wednesday, I was to take a flight to Dallas, Texas for a Pastoral Conference.  Although I fly a great deal, I am always concerned every time I fly anywhere.  My pastor friend was leaving that morning from Pittsburgh, PA. on Tuesday, 9-11, and I would meet him tomorrow, 9-12. 

                 It was not until later that the gasoline from the planes ran down the towers and both towers came down.  In the early morning people were coming down, and were told, no problems, they were still safe, go back up to your job.  A decision they would all regret.  The feelings going on in me were unique. 

                It must have been what it was like on December 7, 1941 when they experienced an attack on Pearl Harbor.  In talking with some of the members who were alive then some told me they were in the 9th grade, some heard on the radio, some saw it in the paper, some heard from others, but all were nervous about the future.  September 11, 2001 was our generations Pearl Harbor Day. 

                Later that day, I would be asked to speak to the community via the 6pm CBS news.  They called and asked me to say something.  They asked me the same question my daughter asked me earlier, “Rev. do you think this is the end of the world, or what the church calls the rapture?”  

                Now I had all day to think and pray about it.  I had seen the towers fall, planes fall, dust cover figures of those that made it out of the towers, and heard the news all day long.  Now I was ready for the question.  I boldly took the mike and said to them, “I don’t know, only God knows, but I know what we should do, we should pray for God to help us, our country, our city, our families, and the families of those that lost a love one, our president, our government and all that are in authority.”  Before they could answer me, I started praying out loud for those very things.  At the end of the prayer, the anchor man said, “What did you do?  You can’t pray on a news cast? You are going to get us in trouble!”  I told him, “I am sorry, just tell them you did not know what that crazy preacher was going to do” 

                The next day, he called me and said, “Pastor Cummings we have been getting 100’s of calls about what you did at the end of the 6:00pm news.  Our switchboards have been busy all day.”  I asked “What did they say?”  He said, “They all said, so glad someone prayed.” 

                It’s been 20 years now, but I hope with all that is going on in this world, somebody is still praying.  I know I am. 

                The next day I was asked to come to several local schools and colleges and have prayer at the flag pole for anyone who wanted to pray with us.  At one school over 100 students showed up and prayed with me. 

                Within the next two weeks we were allowed to actually go to New York, New York as a Chaplin and minister to Fire Fighters, Police, and military soldiers who were bivouac in the various parks.  While my wife and I visited with the different heroes, we went to the site that was still smoking at the time.  We stepped over spots where body parts were found.  We talked to the people who were doing such powerful work.  I will never forget the smell, sounds, and the faces we saw in New York.  We only stayed a few days, but it was days we will never forget. 

                I know it is 20 years later, but prayer is still needed. I know I am.  I hope you are too!