In the spring of this year, I had occasion to be driving up the road with my truck radio tuned to a country music station. A song, written and sung by Alan Jackson, titled “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” came on the air with the following lyrics:
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock
At the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky? …
The song is about the several attacks brought upon the United States on September 11, 2001 (9/11) by al Qaeda, an Islamist terrorist regime under patronage of the Taliban Militia operating out of Afghanistan.
One particular line in song lyric, noted above, questions: “Did you stand there in shock at the sight of the black smoke risin’ against that blue sky?”
The thought of black smoke brought up a memory of my experience during one of those 9/11 al Qaeda attacks. I was in the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters building in Washington, D.C. when terrorists, acting at the behest of Taliban militia, crashed a hijacked commercial aircraft into Pentagon (the military command headquarters of the United States) that day.
Pandemonium rang out.
Upon hurriedly exiting the FAA building, I observed a huge black smokescreen rising from the Pentagon building nearby. Chaos abounded; people poured into underground subway stations for protection and escape; gridlock of motor vehicles occurred when giving way to emergency and military vehicles; sirens blared; and tears poured from the eyes of confused and anxiously startled people after hearing we were under attack.
That tragic event in the seat of our government, along with other terrorist attacks occurring that same day in New York City and Stoney Creek Township in Pennsylvania, was either unexpected or clues of such were given little credence by both United States intelligence agencies and the United Nations International Police Organization (INTERPOL).
As a Christian, I struggled to find a reasonable answer as to why this tragedy occurred. I have concluded that we will never know why any nation or group would engage in behaviors to bring such a travesty upon their neighbors of the world in which we live.
For me, I find the words of the late Reverend Billy Graham to be beneficial in reminding me of my faith in God during good times and bad. In this connection, Reverend Billy Graham’s 9/11 Message from the Washington National Cathedral offers this comfort:
“This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if those people who got on those planes or who walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on Tuesday thought that it would be the last day of their lives. And that’s why we each must face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will…Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us the symbol of the cross. For the Christian, the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for He took them upon Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you’.”
It is my hope that my family and neighbors never eye that which inspired Alan Jackson’s lyric “the sight of that black smoke risin’ against that blue sky.”