Hard to believe today marks the 18th anniversary of the day we know as 9/11. How well I recall where I was and what I was doing Sept. 11, 2001, when hearing the news of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. How well I also remember the second such incident, another plane hitting the other World Trade Center tower moments later.
Then the tragic news continued. A third airplane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. And yet a fourth plane whose passengers thwarted another hijack attempt crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93. Those airlines and flights are etched into the annals of American and world history.
The four attacks killed 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others. Additional women and men died from 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years that followed.
All four attacks were coordinated against the United States by Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda. The events of 9/11 comprise the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters (343 died during and following the attacks) and law enforcement officers (72 lost their lives) in the history of the United States of America.
As some of you are aware, all this occurred only three days after my installation as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I was leading a staff meeting in the LCMS International Center. Numerous related events transpired during my nine year presidency.
One of my most poignant memories of this historic tragedy is the full page letter unanimously approved by the LCMS Council of Presidents for publication in USA Today and The New York Times Oct. 2, 2001, three weeks after the event. Here is the letter:
A Promise – The New York Times and USA Today – October 2, 2001
In the aftermath of our nation’s tragedy three weeks ago today, we of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod wholeheartedly offer our love and prayers for those tens of thousands of people whose lives have been drastically altered by the sudden loss of their loved ones and friends.
At such a time it is natural to wonder how we can get on with life.
Still heavy with the burden or our enormous loss, we face the potential for even more danger at our doorstep. And as we look out upon the world seeking a promise of comfort and hope, we may see only darkness.
Yet we are not the first people to suffer such darkness, nor to long for such a promise.
David in the Old Testament, in time of great personal and national distress, looked to God and took comfort in His promise:
“The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Jesus, to whom the Scriptures refer as our “Good Shepherd,” spoke words that are particularly poignant right now:
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
That Good Shepherd understands suffering and death … and His own death and resurrection promise hope and comfort to us all.
In these days of great personal and national trial, it is important to remember the words of St. Paul as we struggle with ‘getting on with life’:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And that’s His promise!
Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
St. Louis, MO
This day will never be forgotten. Lord, have mercy!