On September 11, 2001 at 8:50am my phone rang and it was our church deacon asking if I had seen the news. My day was just starting and I had not got through my first cup of coffee, let alone turned on the TV.
He went on to say a jet airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center. “Oh my God, did a pilot have a heart attack, did something go wrong with the plane?” I was shocked and told the deacon I would call him back.
I turned on the news to see a picture of the World Trade Center and thick black smoke coming out of the side of the building. I don’t really remember what the reporter was saying when suddenly a large jet crossed the screen and slammed in the 2nd WTC tower.
I was stunned, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and in another 30 seconds or so my mind started asking questions…what happen? How many people were on those planes? Who was on those planes? How many people are in those buildings? My God they are all dead…damn…what is happening? How the f*** does something like this happen…
My mind began to focus on the reporter and it seemed he had as many questions as I did. They were beginning to get reports of another crash, this time at the Pentagon…then there was talk of a 4th plane that also crashed in an open field somewhere in Pennsylvania.
Then suddenly right in front of me the first tower collapsed, not long after that the 2nd one came down and in that moment deep in my soul I saw the United States of America change and it was a change brought on by fear.
The story of that day and what happen was staggering.
“Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. (Washington Dulles International Airport). At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower, followed by United Airlines Flight 175 which hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m.
Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m, after the passengers on board engaged in a fight with the hijackers. Its ultimate target was thought to be either the Capitol (the meeting place of the United States Congress) or the White House.
In a September 2002 interview conducted by documentary-maker Yosri Fouda, an al Jazeera journalist, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh stated that the fourth hijacked plane was heading for the United States Capitol, not for the White House. They further stated that Al-Qaeda initially planned to fly hijacked jets into nuclear installations rather than the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but it was decided not to attack nuclear power plants "for the moment" because of fears it could "get out of control".
During the hijacking of the airplanes, the hijackers used weapons to stab and kill aircraft pilots, flight attendants and passengers. Reports from phone callers from the planes indicated that knives were used by the hijackers to stab attendants and in at least one case, a passenger, during two of the hijackings. Some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones, and provide details, including that several hijackers were aboard each plane, that mace or other form of noxious chemical spray, such as tear gas or pepper spray was used, and that some people aboard had been stabbed”
The statistics from that day are even worse.
The initial numbers are indelible: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. From there, they ripple out.
Total number killed in attacks (official figure as of 9/5/02): 2,819
Number of firefighters and paramedics killed: 343
Number of NYPD officers: 23
Number of Port Authority police officers: 37
Number of WTC companies that lost people: 60
Number of employees who died in Tower One: 1,402
Number of employees who died in Tower Two: 614
Number of employees lost at Cantor Fitzgerald: 658
Number of U.S. troops killed in Operation Enduring Freedom: 22
Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115
Ratio of men to women who died: 3:1
Age of the greatest number who died: between 35 and 39
Bodies found "intact": 289
Body parts found: 19,858
Number of families who got no remains: 1,717
Estimated units of blood donated to the New York Blood Center: 36,000
Total units of donated blood actually used: 258
Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609
Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051
Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20
FDNY retirements, January–July 2001: 274
FDNY retirements, January–July 2002: 661
Number of firefighters on leave for respiratory problems by January 2002: 300
Number of funerals attended by Rudy Giuliani in 2001: 200
Number of FDNY vehicles destroyed: 98
Tons of debris removed from site: 1,506,124
Day’s fires continued to burn after the attack: 99
Jobs lost in New York owing to the attacks: 146,100
Days the New York Stock Exchange was closed: 6
Estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder as a result of 9/11: 422,000
It took the United States of America 26 days to respond with our full weight and power.
Through November of 2009 according to Stephen M.Walt on a website called, “Foreign Policy” 148,000 Muslims have been killed by US bombing runs and the military in 2 different Muslim countries.
Ironically, all these folks have been killed and we still do not have the one who was the mastermind of the fear in which we live today. Also, we still get his or his minions’ little taped messages to keep the fires of fear going.
In fact those in this country those who make their living as purveyors of fear have simply become more organized and more powerful. Can you say “Tea-Party”?
The religious and political right wing zealots of the world are so “fearful” of anyone that doesn’t fit their definition morality and faith and their fight is so fierce, they will throw any manner of fecal (fear) matter at the fan and it just blows out all over the place and some of it sticks. Those sticking points of fear today are homosexuals, immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, Iranians’ and anyone who doesn’t believe President Obama is a socialist who is secretly a Muslim born outside the USA.
I have come to recognize that this fear and concern is deeply rooted in the way we were and are taught to view God. So in essence, the only way to get past those fears is to change the way we view God.
I have recently been re-reading a book written by Bruce Bawer, called Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. From this book I have come to understand the real source of the fears played on by the zealots of our day.
The source of this fear is the difference between an attitude of love and an attitude of law. On page 5 of this book Mr. Bauer states:
"Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience and the priesthood of all believers. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission--the resurrected Christ's injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, 'go to all the nations and make them my disciples'--liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke's Gospel reads as follows; 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.'"
What these few words essentially say is that we have a choice as to whether we understand and live with a God as a strict authoritarian who demands that all come to God in a specific way or we will be punished or we understand and live with a God as a loving Creator who desires that all would come to God and would treat each other accordingly.
All one has to do is read the story or the “prodigal son” to make the obvious choice.
Yet what get’s focused on is a point of view that is based on the law and the self-proclaimed authority figures who have decided they speak on behalf of God. “The whole world will go to hell in a hand basket if the homosexuals, immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, Iranians’ and anyone who doesn’t believe President Obama is a socialist who is secretly a Muslim and born outside the USA are allowed to pursue a life in which “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So, yes there is a choice to be made.
Otherwise, why did Jesus spend almost his entire earthly ministry bringing the outcasts, those outside the law back to the fold?
Why did Jesus, when asked to state what the greatest commandment was, say to Love God and to love your Neighbor?
He never said in order to be okay with God and not go to hell you must obey the law of the day, rather he spent all of his time telling folks to love God and giving them example after example of how they could show and live that love.
The women caught in adultery released, the raising of Lazarus, the blind person healed, the Roman Centurion’s slave healed, the women with the issue of blood healed.
"Be not be judges of others, and you will not be judged. For as you have been judging, so you will be judged, and with your measure will it be measured to you. And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother's eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye?"
--Matthew 7: 1-3
"Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses; All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not. They make hard laws and put great weights on men's backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them...
"But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! Because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! For you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible. You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy?"
--Matthew 23: 13-17
Yes, we can choose to live in fear by the law and the authority of those around us or we can choose to live by the teachings of Jesus and his examples.
We can belong to the church of the religious leaders and know it alls and continuing killing people of other faiths at an alarming rate or we can follow the type of faith that Jesus spent his ministry building and ultimately died for.
A faith that was to include all those whom the religious leaders of the day said was not part of God.
In the end the religious and political right gets and maintains its power from fear.
Fear is the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. If we are to really be the beautiful creation that God intended then we must begin to listen to, believe and live the word’s of Jesus when he said to the disciples and to each of us today; “fear not, it is I!”
Saturday will be September 11, 2010-the 9th observance of the day “fear” found a home in our country. Maybe after we spend some time remembering those who died a horrific death and all the carnage that has come about since we might take some time to consider these quotes and with God’s help we can be a people who honor, uphold and celebrate the diversity which makes us strong rather than live in and with a fear which will ultimately destroy us all.
"Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free health-care. You're thinking of Jesus." - John Fugelsang
.."cares about the welfare of the people, their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.” ~ John F. Kennedy, 1960
"Nothing pains some people more than having to think." Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"I am made in the image of God, but not necessarily your image of God."
"How many people have to be in hell before you'll feel safe in your salvation?" Alan Jones
"Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."--Mahatma Ghandi
"Courage is fear that has said its prayers." -Karl Barth-
"Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." President Barack H. Obama January 20, 2009
"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice" Cherokee Expression
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.