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Embracing Unwavering Hope and Finding Peace in the Midst of Tragedy

Do you remember where you were on 9/11? I certainly do, and like many of us, it feels as vivid as if it happened yesterday. I was a 22-year-old server at a local restaurant in Virginia Beach, Virginia, scheduled for the early shift that day. As I got into my car, it seemed like any other morning. Ready to drive to work, I switched on the car radio and tuned in to my favorite station to catch the final half hour of Tommy and Rumble, local DJ hosts known for their elaborate pranks.

But on that fateful day, their tone was markedly different. “This is not a joke,” one of them uttered in a somber voice. “I’m dead serious, and I know we joke a lot, but we are not joking now. Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Towers in New York City.” For a moment, I thought, This is a pretty messed up joke, even for them. And then I heard, “A third plane hit the Pentagon…” Their voices trailed off, and my heart raced as they mentioned the crash at the Pentagon building in Washington D.C., a place where my father, a Navy Captain at the time, frequently commuted due to his work.

I tried increasing the volume to catch their words clearly, but my own thoughts buzzed in my head, drowning out the DJ’s voices. I rushed into the parking lot at work and grabbed my Nokia cell phone, dialing my parents’ home number with trembling fingers. Busy signal. I hung up and dialed again. Still busy. Over and over, I dialed, the fear growing stronger with every repeated busy signal. Then, miraculously, the line rang, and I held my breath.

“Hello?” My father’s voice on the other end made tears well up, and I choked out, “Dad!” It was only the second time in my life that I had heard my father cry—the first being when his mother passed away about six years prior. That day, we both sobbed over the phone, a mix of relief that he was safe and the weight of the unfolding tragedy we were witnessing at that moment.

After the reassurance that he was unharmed, I stumbled into work, where all the TVs were tuned to the scenes of destruction in New York and D.C. I arrived just in time to witness, in utter horror, the collapse of the first tower.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

I don’t recall many details from the remainder of that day, except for the evening. As darkness settled in, I stepped outside my apartment, still numb after witnessing the sorrow stemming from the day’s attack. I gazed upward at the night sky, which for some reason, appeared unusually clear. Through tear-filled eyes, the stars shimmered above. And then there was the stillness. With air traffic suspended, an unusual quietness enveloped the surroundings. At that moment, I recognized that the world we had been accustomed to had undergone an irreversible transformation. We would never be the same.

And we weren’t. In the days that ensued, I witnessed a nation uniting as one. Neighbors reached out to aid neighbors, and even strangers extended compassion to one another. Back then, I didn’t have Christ in my life as I do now, but today I recognize that what we were witnessing was, in fact, the profound peace that transcends all comprehension—an unwavering calm that only finds its source in Jesus Christ. Looking back over these twenty-two years, this poignant memory still grips me with tremendous grief, as I’m confident it does for the majority who bore witness to it. But now with Christ in my life, it also is a moment that remains a reminder of the solace and assurance we find in Christ alone, and that nothing can shake that.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5

In any time of profound uncertainty, we must anchor our hearts in the unshakable foundation of trust in God’s divine plan. As Romans 5:1-5 reminds us, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we attain not only reconciliation with God but also a pathway to enduring hope. This hope isn’t rendered empty by the trials that befall us, but instead, it blooms amidst trials, fortified by the Holy Spirit’s reassuring presence. With this hope, we’re empowered to face all uncertainty and any circumstances without succumbing to fear, for we know that through Christ our suffering leads to perseverance, character, and ultimately, a hope that will never disappoint us. Let us remain steadfast in the understanding that our trust in God’s sovereign plan and our hope in Jesus Christ grant us the strength to overcome, grow, and emerge from the darkest moments with unwavering faith.


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