September 11, 2007

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning – On That September Day

"Were you in the yard with your wife and children, or working on some stage in LA?"

I'll never forget that morning. Ever. I'll never forget getting out of our Ford Expedition and right before I turned the engine off, I heard the reporters on KMOX in St. Louis talking about "We're getting reports that there is some sort of fire in the World Trade Center". I remember those words like they were just being spoken to me. I'll venture anything that if you were able to get the transcripts from that morning, those would be the exact words.

The time: 7:53 CDT – September 11th, 2001 (7 minutes after the first plane hit the North Tower).

I remember the day. It was a beautiful day in St. Louis. Sunny, cool (unusually cool) as I remember. And the way things were laid out at our office building, we had to walk through the parking lot into a lime-green tunnel and into our building. It took about five minutes to get from the parking lot to my cube. When I arrived at my desk, the whole workplace had begun to buzz and a sort of panic was beginning to set in.

I'll never forget the rest of that morning. We all were mesmerized. There was no work going to get done that day. We went to the cafeteria, and literally hundreds of people sat absolutely stunned as we watched the South Tower get hit and then eventually both towers fall. It was all so surreal. It was so much like watching a movie. Except one thing.

My wife was there. And somewhere in between the South Tower being hit and the building collapsing, we all became alarmingly aware that CitiMortgage had employees in New York, literally right across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan. I didn't talk to my wife that day until about 10:30 CDT. Almost 3 hours after the first tower was hit. I can remember the feelings and emotions that went through me. Guilt. Anger. Fear. Regret. Panic. I didn't know if my wife was alive or dead. I didn't know if my 18 month old son would ever see his mother again. I didn't know. God would use the phone call that finally connected to change the course of the Backes family forever.

I don't remember most of what was said. We cried, and hugged through the phone. It was short. Phone traffic in and out of New York was spotty. But I remember what the first words out of her mouth were. "I don't know what's going to change, but something has to". And it did. In big ways. I remember going to First Baptist Church Harvester that night and asking the church to pray with me as I broke down with Trey in my arms.

I remember when she got home. I remember when I put my arms around her. I remember the look on her face. I remember.

And today, 6 years later. I remember one more time. I remember on a quiet night in Missouri. I remember with my family tucked safely in bed. I remember in the solitude of this moment.

And I know, but yet somehow forget, how fragile and how quick this life can disappear. I remember, but yet let go of, how important my family is to me. I remember, but do not grasp, how evil man can be and yet through that evil, bring out heroism, Godliness, caring, compassion, sacrifice, loyalty, unity, love, joy, friendship, perseverance, character.

And that's what time does. It causes us to forget. It's only been six years, but how much I have forgotten and how much I don't remember each and every day about that moment that marked history. It's been 2,000+ years, and I do the same thing with Jesus every day. I treasure, but yet cast aside, that day on Calvary.

May we never forget. May we always remember. May it always be real. May it always point us away from ourselves. May it help us focus. May it help us cherish. May it spark us to good deeds. May it drive us to the Cross. May it never make sense. May it cause us to depend upon God. May it always hurt. May we always look on with somber faces.

May today be a day of remembrance. But may it also be a day of forgetting. May it be, most of all, that God have mercy upon our souls and upon those whose world stopped turning….on that September day…

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