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Late in September 2001, the weather where I lived was quintessential autumn: dogwoods turned brown-red; a light wind stirred the oak to a crisp rustle; the mornings were cool enough to see your breath, but the afternoons were mild and splashed with gold. It was meteorological perfection.
The splendor, though, seemed out of keeping with the great sorrow that weighted us all. I couldn't help feeling we would never be able to relish such fall glories in quite the same way as before. It seemed that everything was forever changed.
Amid the stunned grief, though, some of the change was good. The petty things that had been distracting us now clearly looked petty. And—though it took such horror—America remembered to pray. It struck me later that right then no one was bringing lawsuits over prayer in public places. And for one graceful moment, the entire civilized world kindly held out candles for us to see by.
As we looked through our ruined towers for a miracle, we could also see what had not changed. The enemy may have believed we would crumble more easily within, but America had not gone down with the towers; she had been only revealed behind them. Dawn's early light had found us standing, our flags at half-mast, sure that right would right itself, and steeled to the cause. At our best in the worst of times, we looked up, as one people, we the people, with unity and solemn resolve.
The President soon called for us get back to normal. And we understood what he meant. If we had stopped too long, the enemy would get more than our buildings and the lives of innocent countrymen. He would get our economy, and thus the world's, our confidence, and our Americanness. He must not, we vowed, have any of that.
At the same time there were some things I had hoped would not get back to normal: like having core American values called outmoded. Or our being so sophisticated that we were embarrassed to put up the flag. Or Congress and the media worrying endlessly about nothing except polls and egos and agendas.
And I most certainly did not want to go back to forgetting again to Whom we owe our prosperity and freedom and to Whom we turned as a nation without any hesitation for weeks after. (I can still see all the government leaders holding hands on the steps of the Capitol, beseeching heaven.)
Ten years on now, and some changes from that day continue. Extreme airport vigilance, the Office of Homeland Security, a general awareness that hate is much stronger in the world than we had permitted ourselves to understand, to name but three. And sadly, some of the good changes have slipped back into "normal."
What did not change then or since, however, is the Truth that prevails through all wars and atrocities and time. Man is depraved (we had only a new and overwhelming view of it), but God is sovereign.
Of all that came of 9/11, let these verses from Psalm 18 speak of the most important truth under it:
"The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the flood of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God; he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears."
As we commemorate the heroism displayed in the face of despicable acts ten years ago, we can know that whatever happens around us, we are ultimately safe because our great High Tower is eternal and unassailable and His glory is diminished by nothing.
Alice Bronson is a part-time teacher and a freelance writer.