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9/11 and A Stranded Pilot

I woke up September 11th, 2001 like any other American early-riser did. I got my coffee and sat down to watch the Today Show while my husband slept in a little. He had not made the decision to join the Army as a chaplain and was supporting me while I was attending seminary. I was getting ready to head off to my classes for the day when I heard Katie Couric announce that they had received word of a small plane crashing into one of the towers in New York City.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5:2

I woke up September 11th, 2001 like any other American early-riser did. I got my coffee and sat down to watch the Today Show while my husband slept in a little. He had not made the decision to join the Army as a chaplain and was supporting me while I was attending seminary. I was getting ready to head off to my classes for the day when I heard Katie Couric announce that they had received word of a small plane crashing into one of the towers in New York City. At the time, they thought it was a small two passenger plane. I kissed my sleepy husband goodbye, telling him about the plane crash as I headed out.

By the time I got to class, they had projected the news onto our screen and saw that it was not a small plane, but a large commercial airline. Although we begged our professor to let us watch the news instead of having class, he turned it off and continued with the lecture. After class, the Seminary was buzzing. Students were huddled around every TV on campus. As I found the nearest TV, I squeezed through the crowd just in time to hear about the second plane hitting the second tower and a third missing, possibly heading toward DC. As I walked outside in shock, it hit me- my heart seemed to drop to my feet and yet stop all at the same time. My father is a Delta Airline pilot. I had talked with him the day before and he told me he would be scheduled to fly in and out of New York today. Where was he? I reached for my cell phone… no cell phone coverage on campus. Why would they do that? How can an entire graduate school have no cell phone coverage? I repeatedly dialed my father’s cell phone with no answer. I started to panic. I had never lost someone that close to me. I tried to pray, but my panic kept hitting the redial button and my increasing anxiety seemed to win. All I seemed to mutter out was “God…please.” My first prayer, although short, I could only hope it was enough.

I walked in and out of the buildings circled around the quad. The whole seminary seemed to be huddling around TV’s and praying in groups. I listened as I heard whispers of new reports of another plane crashing into the ground somewhere in Pennsylvania. Other planes were being grounded, lost, and flights canceled. People were stranded, pilots were stranded, towers were falling, people were running, ashes and meaningless paperwork were falling to the ground like some sick blizzard, and we were standing there completely helpless. “My God,” I thought, “people are dying.” My second prayer. Again, I had nothing else to offer, and wondered if God was just as horrified and hopefully doing something when I definitely wasn’t.

My husband came running across the campus quad about that time. He had assumed that my cell phone wasn’t working and knew I would be worried about my dad. Shortly after that I managed to reach my dad. His flight had been canceled that morning due to mechanical problems and was still in Georgia. He spent the next week making every effort to fly or drive to the other airports to get people home. I was secretly mad at him for being willing to jump into another airplane immediately to help the other pilots and passengers get home. We were all still wondering if this event was even over and yet he was sacrificing himself to get people home. He didn’t run into those buildings like so many other heroes did that day, but I bet he would have. He wanted every person home safe with their family and if he could bring relief to one family, he was willing to go. If he would have been the pilot whose plane had been hijacked, I believe he would have done everything, even given his life, to keep his people safe. To quote David Crowder, “I don’t know what to do with a love like that… how to be a love like that.”

The fact is, my dad is just as human as anyone else. God designed us all to “be a love like that.” The truth though is that only the Creator God could lovingly make each person and then hope that they choose Him instead of themselves each day. He already embodied that love- playing it out to the end- showing His life to be worth bringing each of us “home” in a world of distress and fulfillment with God, the Father. He hears every prayer, my two-worded pleas and those who call out hoping there is a god to listen. God moved despite His pain that day. He brought mercy to those who died; he brought comfort to those who lived and peace to those who feared. I saw God move through many people during 9/11 and the events that followed, but I saw Jesus in my dad, and it brought me that much closer to them both.

Click here to see this article as seen in Wives in Bloom On-line Magazine

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