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Your 9-11
by Tom Goodman
September 11, 2008

This isn't a typical edition of LeaderLines.  But then again, this isn't a typical Thursday.  This is the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attack we've come to know simply as "9-11."

The anniversary should give us all a chance to pause and think about whether we're ready to handle our own crisis times when they come.

"Sometimes he calms the storm," the saying goes, "and sometimes he calms his child."

That modern proverb is meant to remind us that God is always with us in a crisis:  Sometimes he provides rescue from the crisis; sometimes he provides the ability to endure the crisis.

Two stories out of the September 11 terrorist attacks illustrate this.  One is the story of a woman named Josephine.  Josephine is a 69-year-old woman who was on the 73rd floor of one of the World Trade Center towers when it was struck.  Seven firemen from Ladder 6, a company of the New York City Fire Department, helped her down the 73 flights of stairs.  At times, she was ready to give up, but they helped, encouraged, inspired, and assured her she would make it.

"They were like angels to me," she said.  She would stop to catch her breath and they would stop with her.  She started to shiver with fear, and one gave her his jacket.  One floor at a time they got her down until, finally, she could walk no more and just sat down on one of the steps of the fourth floor.  They waited with her, coaxing her to stand up and resume walking, because they were almost to the ground floor.  But she could not move, and they refused to leave her.

Suddenly, they heard and felt the floors beneath them give way under the tremendous weight of the collapsing building, and they were hurtled down with terrific force and enveloped in a suffocating cloud of pitch-black smoke.  But as the noise lessened and the smoke began to clear, they found that they had settled over the rubble of the caved-in floors below them.

Miraculously, Josephine had refused to go any farther at the one point that remained intact as the building fell.

All seven firemen plus Josephine were eventually brought into the daylight of safety.  "Had we continued descending, when we were pleading with her to keep moving," they said, "we would have been killed by the crush of the floors above us."

But we know that not all the stories from 9-11 had happy endings.  Another woman, Lisa Beamer, lost her husband, Todd, who was on one of the hijacked flights which crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside.

Todd and Lisa Beamer were Christians, both active in their church -- Todd could have been any one of us:  He taught Sunday School and was reading a Max Lucado book when his airplane was hijacked.

While many passengers around him were using cell phones and airfones to call loved ones, Todd Beamer for some reason was unable to get through to his wife, Lisa.  He reached a GTE airfone operator, though, and reported that his plane had been hijacked, but he and several other passengers planned to take it over.

He recited the Lord's Prayer with her, and then the operator heard him drop the phone and say the now-famous line to the other passengers, "Are you ready?  Let's roll."

Minutes later the jet crashed in Pennsylvania instead of into its intended target, which many believe would have been the White House.  No miraculous rescue was provided for her husband, no divine intervention, and yet Lisa Beamer has become a very public illustration of strong faith.

Josephine credits God with rescue when 110 stories above her collapsed around her.  Lisa Beamer credits God with comfort and strength in the midst of her loss.  Sometimes he calms the storm; sometimes he calms his child.

That's what will sustain you when it's not the collapse of buildings that you watch on TV but the collapse of your own little world around you.

In response to the events of September 11, Ravi Zacharias released a book called Light in the Shadow of Jihad.  The story of Josephine was told in that wonderful little book.  Ravi wrote:

The supernatural is possible.  It happens, but it does not lead to the greatest miracle in a life.  For you see, anyone can take a miraculous story and explain it a dozen different ways.  At best it just proves that there is a power beyond our own.  So where does that leave us?  What God seeks in every individual is not just companionship based on His intervention, but communion with Him based on His indwelling.  That is what makes the difference when a building is collapsing.  It is not whether a hand grabs your hand and rescues you from the carnage; it is that no matter what happens, His strength empowers you to rise beyond the devastation.


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