THE DAY AMERICA DIED                                                                                                           Andy Hollifield 9-11-17

AMAZING GRACE    Verses 2 & 3  Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.  How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers toils and snares I have already come, tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.—-John Newton

I usually start off with a passage of scripture but I felt like today that I would start off with something we should all relate to.  Although many may have questioned “how could God let this happen?”  I will not pretend to know the mind of God but I will give an opinion to some extent.  I don’t know why he let the 9/11 attacks happen just like I don’t know why babies die and are born with defects or why it seems that good people die young and old heathens live forever.  I also don’t know why cancer has still not been eradicated like polio, small pox, and the bubonic plague essentially have been.  Although I can’t answer those questions I have made an observation; I wrote an article once about “Crisis Christians.”  That is my term for them anyway.  To me it is simply people who don’t have time for God in their lives and don’t want to be bothered by him or his standards until a crisis hits their life.  When that happens, they want to know where he is and why he didn’t do something.  They all of a sudden get super spiritual like they are God’s favorites.  That ought to tell us something because God don’t play favorites.  The truth of the matter is that our nation as a whole has much the same attitude.  We as a nation have tried our best to eradicate the one hope that we have and the one that, in times of crisis, all of our leaders ask us to call on.  But enough said about that.  I want to encourage folks today the best I can.  I have noticed something rather disturbing though: somehow this day, that should be a memorial day for all the people that died in those deliberate and despicable terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims, has become a day of service and doing good deeds and community projects often with little emphasis or mention of the events of that tragic day and all the lives that were lost.

Do you realize that the class of 2020 will be the first graduating class that wasn’t even born at the time of the attacks?  From then on, this day will only be something they have read about.  It probably is for a lot of the folks that were young in 2001 but you can rest assured that the parents of those kids were very concerned at what was going on and what was to come.  My son was 4 1/2 at the time and I guarantee you that it was on my mind.  For the first time in my life, I actually feared that our country would be invaded.  I still remember the days in my youth when there was actual concern about Russia “pushing the button” on nuclear weapons and destroying the world.  For the record; God made it, it’s his, and he will destroy it by fire but according to his word, not yet.  I never was as fearful of the Russians as I was fearful on 9/11.  The amazing grace of God was all that brought some of us any comfort and assurance that day and for many days to come.  But I knew that day, as the pieces began to come together, that the world I had grown up in had, as of that morning, ceased to exist.

September 11th, 2001 was a beautiful Tuesday morning with just a hint of fall in the air but warming up quickly.  It is one of those days in your life that you will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.  In my life, there have only been a few days like that.  Prior to that day, January 28th, 1986 was I believe the most recent one.  That was the day that the space shuttle Challenger exploded.  I was working at Charlotte Street Exxon in Asheville and we made sure we turned the TV on that morning so we could catch the launch.  It was a cold morning and as we watched the launch and seen it burst into flames, something didn’t look right and we soon found out why.  It was the 10th shuttle flight and I believe the first with a common citizen on board, a grade school teacher if I remember correctly.  The length of the flight was only 73 seconds.  Millions watched in horror as it exploded and pieces went in every direction.  Much like 9/11, you just could not hardly comprehend that it could be real.

The time before that day that is forever etched in my memory was August 16th, 1977.  The day that Elvis Presley died.  I remember it was the day before I started 7th grade I believe.  My brother and I were watching TV when a news preview came on like they always do, telling you what is coming up on the evening news.  They said, “in a moment, some news on Elvis Presley.”  I remember commenting to my brother, “he probably died or something”.  I had no idea at that time that was exactly what it was, I was just being a smart mouthed kid.  That is the only days that I have that kind of engrained memory of other than when my dad passed away.  I am sure that people who were alive in July of 1969 proudly recall the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  It was the first manned space flight to ever land on the surface of the moon and Neil Armstrong became the first man to ever walk on the moon.   Those that were nearing adulthood in April of 1968 probably have that kind of memory of the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot while others probably recall in detail November of 1963 and  have that same kind of engrained memory of the day that President Kennedy was assassinated.  I am sure that people that were alive in December of 1941 have that same kind of memory about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

There are thankfully only a few days like that in ones’ life and they change with each generation.  September 11th is different from all of those but probably most closely related to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when the Japanese “awoke a sleeping giant” and shortly afterwards the United States entered WW2.  That morning as I was switching trailers at Hubbell Manufacturing in Arden, I remember hearing it on the John Boy and Billy show on the radio.  Their details were sketchy at best and I turned over to WWNC to see what they were saying.  Before I did that, I actually thought John Boy and Billy were doing a radio prank on their listeners.  But after I changed stations and heard it, I just kind of blew it off as probably some nut job flew his little Cessna or Piper Cub into it because he forgot to pull up on the stick.  At first, it was believed that it may have been a small plane but details came fairly quickly after the initial impact and it was apparent that this was no small plane.  When it was discovered to have been a jetliner, it was assumed it was an intentional act.  I called my wife and then my mom to see what they were seeing on TV.  When the second plane flew into the other World Trade Center tower 18 minutes after the first one, it was assumed that America was under attack.  It was not known who or on what scale but it was called a terrorist act regardless of who committed it.  As news came in of a missing flight out of Boston, it soon became apparent that it was the first plane and Flight 175 was the second one.  While all of that was unfolding in New York, at about 9:45 American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the Pentagon In Washington, D.C. At about 10:10 AM reports came of United Flight 93 which had crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA.  It later became known from family members of passengers, that some of the passengers on Flight 93 had fought the hijackers and caused the plane to crash before reaching its intended target which was believed to be the White House.  There were a total of 2996 people killed on that day and several thousand were injured.   Only 20 people are known to have survived the collapse of the towers and nearly 10,000 were treated for injuries, many of which were serious.  It was also the only time since the birth of aviation that all planes in the US were grounded and ordered to land at the closest airport to them.

Our country has never been the same since that day.  Innocence died that day and many of us that were alive but to young to really remember anything about the Vietnam War, experienced living through, although at a distance, the horrors of war.  The world suddenly in less than 24 hours had become a dark and dangerous place and peace of mind and our feeling of security had been taken away likely never to be recovered.  There were other events that I remember but not with the vivid detail of the ones I have mentioned.  I felt that it was only appropriate on this day, to write my post commemorating the sacrifice of life and the heroes that rushed in as others were rushing out.  The lives that were saved and would have otherwise likely been lost if not for the deeds and actions of others, many of which lost their lives.  Included in that number of 2996 people, were also the 19 hijackers that were deceived into sacrificing their lives and taking the lives of others.

So as you go throughout your day today, please be mindful of that day and also say a prayer for those whose lives will never be the same because of suffering great personal loss that day.  Also, take the time to thank God that he has preserved our country to the extent he has.  Our innocence may have died that day but the American spirit lives on.  We have once again, only by the amazing grace of Almighty God, risen up from the ashes of that day to carry on and not to have the constant fear and uncertainty that forever mark that day in our lives.  May God continue to bless America, and may America once again bless and honor God.  Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

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