I heard a story recently about a young man who was walking around the streets of New York not long after the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed. An old woman stopped him and said, “I feel sorry for you.” When he asked why, the old woman said, “Because it is your generation that will have to deal with this.”
And it’s true: Sept. 11, 2001, was a startling reminder of just how suddenly and completely our lives can change—how easy it is on a Tuesday morning, under a brilliantly blue summer sky, for a small group of strangers to alter the course of our stories—and how quickly we can veer from action to reaction, and from unbridled optimism to something else.
A decade later, people all around the world are still living in the shadows of the fallen towers and the smoke rising from the Pentagon and the remains of a plane in a southern Pennsylvania field. Americans of a certain age mark time with it. On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we offer reflections from five writers on what that fateful day meant for them and what they’ve learned since.
by Susan Isaacs
In 2001, I was living in New York and dating a man who thought the God of the Bible was judgmental. I tried to explain God’s judgment wasn’t marred by sin. But it didn’t matter; Jack didn’t like the idea of judgment, period.
Not long afterward, I heard Tim Keller preach that contemporary America didn’t really understand divine judgment because we hadn’t experienced evil. We lived in the comfort and calm of suburbia—why would we need divine judgment if we had no heinous evil to be made right? Keller contrasted that perspective to the experience of theologian Miroslav Volf. Volf was born in Croatia, where people witnessed villages burned to the ground, their daughters raped and their sons’ throats slit. Try telling Croatians not to take revenge.
I thought: If Jack ever experienced evil, he would plead—even demand—that God make things right. Well, on the morning of Sept. 11, Jack was in an elevator, heading to the top floor of the World Trade Center. Jack made it out alive; all of his colleagues perished. He suffered trauma, survivor’s guilt and raged at any- one else who felt angry. Jack was in the building—only he had the right to want justice.