Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

The day everything changed


"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."—Psalm 23:4


By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

Typical routines on that September morning were shattered by unbelievable news. A plane had crashed into one of the landmark World Trade Center towers in New York City. Initial thought: What a horrible accident! Only minutes later came the report of another plane hitting the second tower. More startling news followed, of a third plane crashing into the Pentagon at Washington and a fourth plane over Pennsylvania. We Americans suddenly found ourselves facing the unthinkable. We felt vulnerable, frightened.

Not since Pearl Harbor had our nation experienced a tragedy of such magnitude. "Who did this?" and "Why?" raced through our minds.

Sept. 11, 2001, was the day that everything changed—our innocence, our way of life, and our feelings of security. The reality of cruelty in the world caught us off-guard.

We called our family members to tell them we loved them. We drew together in shared grief. We flocked to our churches to make sense of it all.

On this 10th anniversary, I ask:

  • What happened to us as a nation when we came face-to-face with an evil beyond our comprehension or imagination?

We discovered that, as Americans, regardless of past divisions, we united. We responded to the disaster as one people.

  • What lessons have we learned?

I believe one lesson we learned was that the way of life to which we were accustomed will never return. Living in the greatest nation on earth does not make us immune from catastrophes or cowardly acts such as what happened 10 years ago. In fact, because we have the freedoms to speak our minds, to worship as we choose, and many more liberties, there always will be forces opposed to our way of life, willing to go to any extreme to destroy our freedoms.

We also learned that all lives are fragile and unpredictable, that we should not be lulled into thinking unexpected tragedy cannot happen to us.

The way we handle the unanticipated has a lot to do with our faith, and that is another lesson I pray we learned.

Upon this 10th anniversary of 9/11, let us be mindful that there is one certainty to which we can cling.

It is God!

If we truly understand this, we can face unpredictable demands that confront us—without fear or flinching. We have a huge advantage if we remember this as we prepare to face each day.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God’s words assure us that God is with us always. Although the world and the times change, God doesn’t!

When we read the simple, yet powerful lyrics of the 23rd Psalm, we are reminded that all who read it, regardless of circumstances, find in it a depth of spiritual insight that satisfies the most anxious soul.

The Interpreter’s Bible describes these verses: "Here there is no elaborate ode, smelling of midnight oil. This is no sundial recording only sunny hours; it faces faithfully the dark defile and the lurking foes. At the same time it honestly and thankfully remembers life’s delights. In short, it sees life steadily and sees it whole, and leaves no doubt as to the master force governing all."

We find more comforting words in Romans 8, where the Apostle Paul reminds us, "We are more than conquerors through him who loved us, and neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

My prayer is that 9/11 taught us we are not alone in this unpredictable world. I also pray that in the 10 years since that day we have learned to put God first in everything we do, and that we do a much better job of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Finally, I fervently pray we have come to understand that because we believe in a God whose grace is sufficient for all, good will overcome evil, and love ultimately will triumph over hate.

Remember where you were on 9/11? That date falls on Sunday this year, and I pray you already know where you will be—in a house of worship—as you remember the day everything changed.


Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

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