The Sky Stood Still

This week we paused to remember the events of September 11, 2001. As with most events of this prominence we thought about where we were and what we were doing as the horrifying news broke. We also reflected on how we reacted in the aftermath. There were no empty church pews that week—sadly there are plenty now. Some went to the recruiter’s office to sign up while others went to their police and fire departments to do the same. Politicians from all parties stood arm-in-arm to show solidarity. Some were glued to their television watching the newly introduced bottom of the screen scroll waiting for the next bit of information. Some stockpiled survival rations in anticipation of further attacks. Others just sat in disbelief. We all reacted differently according to what we felt would help us understand the non-understandable. How could this happen? Why did this happen? What are we going to do about it? History has answered these questions for the most part, but at the time we were in a mental, emotional, and spiritual fog.

I was in the military at the time and my family and I had been recently assigned to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in the Norfolk area. On that morning, I was meeting my new Commander for the first time. We were having a good discussion when he said some words I will never forget, “That’s not right, those are our alert jets!” I had no idea what he was talking about. We stepped outside to see two F-15 Eagles launching—he had heard the engine noise and knew they would not be going out on a training mission. At that point his aid busted into the room and told him to turn on the television. What we saw was a change in what we knew and something we will never forget.

This area is one of high aircraft traffic, both civilian and military, I became accustomed to seeing frequent and many contrails in the sky, to the point where I quickly began to take them for granted. If you are not familiar with them, a contrail is the trail of condensed water from and aircraft or rocket and is seen as a white streak against the sky. Seeing those two jet’s contrails changed me—the gravity of the situation changed me.

I was assigned to the Combat Control Center and was so new that I did not even have the right uniform with me. I was not ready for this, I did not feel properly trained, I was not qualified for what they were asking me to do. Having a bit of a “pity-party” after a particularly long and intense work shift, I sat outside and was contemplating all that was happening. Then it happened; I looked up and noticed the sky was still—there were no contrails where they should be. I knew the President had suspended all air traffic accept essential military missions but observing the blankness of the sky brought it home to me.

The world I lived in changed…the world our children would grow up in changed…the world changed. Many lives were lost that day and many more were and are still being lost because of the events of that day. But the contrails are back, the sky is no longer still, our resolve (despite some of our differences) is strong. I believe in the American spirit!

Through the turmoil, fear, uncertainty, and all the other emotions of these past 18 years I find peace through God—I cannot even imagine what would have happened to me without Him. Paul sums it up perfectly in Philippians 4:13 when he says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Who is your strength as you face your 9//11s? Who will walk with you and carry you after your 9/11s?

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