Chaos descended at the Sheetz in my neighborhood this summer.
I remember the day when the men first arrived with jackhammers and started to break the cement. The gasoline pumps were quickly removed. Other men dug holes that could easily swallow my car, and buried new storage-tanks. Still other men connected long, blue pipes together in what looked, at least to me, like a confusing mess – while others ran electrical cables and installed a new circuit panel in the store’s office. And, right after the army of workers completed their task, a battalion of cement trucks arrived and everything that had been done was buried under a thick pad of concrete. New pumps were installed. Faithful customers returned. The parking lot’s as busy as it was before the whole thing began. It’s almost as if nothing happened!
We’ll be remembering the horrific events of 9/11 this weekend. It’s hard to believe that 15 years have already passed! I remember sitting in front of my television in stunned silence. I remember watching videos of the planes crashing into the sides of the Twin Towers over and over again. And then, we all witnessed a mighty crash – as the Towers crumbled under their own weight, dropped to the ground, and sent people running through the streets in an effort to escape the immense cloud of toxic dust.
Americans were stunned. It was almost as if evil had won the day. We were reminded that evil people can devise wicked schemes that end the lives of men and women – older people and younger people – parents and children – Christians and non-Christians alike. And yes, our innocence as both individuals and as a nation was shattered.
But soon, we also began to hear heroic stories about police officers and emergency crews. We watched firemen fighting flames and rescuing the people who could be saved. We saw large groups of dedicated workers beginning to sift through the rubble and we saw a single American flag waving in the wind. We came together as a nation. We learned what it means to rise above ideological and personal differences, and work as a Team.
Fred Rogers, the renowned television personality who dedicated his life to children, once said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
It’s not always easy to see the helpers. Helpers often dedicate their time and energy in ways that aren’t noticed by other people. It’s easy for us to forget about the helpers when tragedies like 9/11 happen because horrible events become so permanently burned into our minds that less-obvious things are quickly forgotten. When the battalion of cement trucks buried the twisted maze of blue pipes and electrical conduit, it was as if the hard work and dedication of the people who devoted their time and energy to the project at Sheetz didn’t matter anymore. People quickly forget. The work of helpers is soon forgotten. The “bad” can quickly swallow-up the “good.” But the doesn’t mean that the”good” didn’t happen!
As we remember the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 this weekend, let us recommit ourselves to the process of coming together as a nation. Let us honor those who lost their lives (in an unexpected act of violence) by spending some time in prayer – confessing the times in our own lives when harsh attitudes, and our own hate-filled words and actions, have affected the lives of other people. And let us never forget that, even in a world filled with violence and hatred, we can still make a difference by continuing to confront the evil and violence that we see in our world with love, and by becoming one of the helpers that God continues to use to make our nation and our world into a better place.