Whit’s End: 9/11

It started out like any other morning???waking up late and trying really hard not to miss my Old Testament class with Rev. Whitley.  After all, how would it look for the Alpha Omega Fraternity chaplain and the President of the Wesley Fellowship to be late to a religious class taught by the campus minister!?  Young Harris had never looked much more beautiful than that morning.  It was a privilege and a blessing to go to college in such a beautiful place, something I took for granted at times.

I strolled into class and took my seat near the front, the only class I sat near the front for because I was so interested in the subject.  Rev. Whitley opened with prayer, then picked up where he had left off in our previous class.  A few minutes into class, as he talked about Tiglath-Pileser III (the Assyrian king) and his 8th century BC conquests against Israel, two of my fraternity brothers came in.  Rev. Whitley stopped his lecture and asked the boys why they were late and they said they’re had been a plane crash on the news and they were trying to get more information.  Rev reminded the boys with a grin to be on time from now on and they complied.  We continued on.

After class, we left the building and I headed up toward Duckworth Library.  But something was wrong.  People were scurrying around and I noticed a group of professors teary-eyed and huddled together near the library entrance.  I grabbed a guy by the book bag who was jogging past me and said, “Hey, bro, what in the world is going on?!”
“There’s been an attack, man, you haven’t heard?!” he said.
“No! What are you talking about!?”
“Go turn on the news!” he said to me.

So I ran, fast, back to the dorm room where I found my buddies huddled around the TV and yelling loudly, with a few choice words mixed in from time to time.  As I watched the television they were showing the video of the plane crash over and over and over again, each time stoking the fire that had been lit inside each of us.  It was like replaying an incredible touchdown 10 times with commentary only the team that scored was your rival.

I was sick to my stomach.  The guys and me couldn’t stop wondering if this was all there was, if there was going to be something else.  Growing up in a media/movie???saturated world, we can’t help but wonder if other cities are going to be hit; if Atlanta was next and the dominos were going to fall.  I had to get out of there.  People were frightened, they were upset.  I ran to find Rev. Whitley.

Rev and I sat in the gazebo in the center of campus and talked for a moment.  It turns out the other campus leaders had come to find him there, too.  We all sat and began to discuss the events as rationally as possible and wondered how we were going to meet the emotional needs of students and faculty on a moments notice.  It turns out, as other folks saw Rev in the gazebo, a crowd began to gather.  People began to surround the area, like Jesus preparing to speak on the sermon on the mount.  Rev stood up and said with a thunder that there would be a service in the chapel that afternoon.  He asked us all to spread the word and to let everyone know we would gather for encouragement and prayer.

It was standing room only.  Rev. Whitley gave the most amazing encouragement to each of us, reminding us that we have been attacked, yes; that we were angry, yes; that each of us would pray vengeance on those who have done this to us.  But somehow, he wove together the truth that the cross of Christ covers even this most ungodly of events and that we should focus solely on prayer and support for our country and most importantly for the families and the communities that would be suffering from the loss and devastation of the event.

Because we were so far removed from the scene, it was easy for us to get upset that day.  We took it so hard, like it was us that got punched in the stomach on the playground at school.  But our perspective, especially at that time, needed to be one of support.  If we loose sight of that, then each of us would be eaten alive by our own anger and our own hate.  I think of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies, how as he gave himself over to his selfish will, he began to resent others who did not fall in line with his ideals, his goals.  The fire of hate was kindled in his heart, and that hate was the sun that warmed his galaxy of anger and conquest.

We must never forget, no.  But our never-forgetting is not to be an end in itself.  Our never-forgetting is to be a tool, a reminder of what kinds of evils can bring us to the point of greatness.  As Christians, our greatness is defined by our living-up to the example of Christ.  Should we use this tragedy to see the power of God at work in a people who has committed to stand by the world in the midst of its sin and evil, then we have in fact won the true victory.  Christ did not die so that we would hate the Jews of that day or the Romans.  Christ suffered and died so that he AND we would be resurrected and we would experience the victory of a full life.

Only through tragedy can we see the full scope of a Savior.  The deeper the sin, the greater the reach of God.  Never forget this day???never.  But remember that it is a means to a God-glorifying end.

Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church

Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church

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