I was sixteen-years-old and lived on Long Island at the time. I was the sound guy at my church, and my mother and I were off to a wedding; I needed to run the soundboard for it. I was home schooled, so I was just going to do my work later in the day. We had to stop at the library to look for a book before going to the wedding. As I was perusing the books, I kept hearing people talking in the background about a plane crashing into the Twin Towers.
I couldn’t believe it, so I headed to the lounge where they had a TV to see what people were talking about. Sure enough, the World Trade Center North Tower was on fire. As I stood there I thought to myself, “This must be an accident, there’s no way that someone would purposely fly into the largest buildings in New York City.” But to my horror, as I stood there watching the live report, the other plane crashed into the South Tower. That’s when it struck me, “This is an attack, New York is being attacked!”
I have found the actual broadcast of what I watched that day. Warning: this video contains the second crash, and may be disturbing to some people!
Even though it was only on TV, witnessing the South Tower being attacked has never left my mind. I can see it as clearly as I did on that day (and searching the internet for the ABC broadcast that I watched in the library hasn’t helped). Thousands of people lost their lives on 9/11; not just in New York, but at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania as well. It took me eight years before I could see Ground Zero, and as I looked upon the site where so many people died, I couldn’t help but cry.
Less than a year after the events of 9/11, in the summer of 2002, I was on a mission trip to South Africa. While there, my team and I got the opportunity to teach in schools. Each day, after the lessons, we would sit around and talk with the students. I was showing a group of boys what American money looked like. They asked me where in America I was from, so I told them I was from New York. This spawned a ton of questions about my home. One boy, after examining a dollar bill, looked up at me and asked one of the most unexpected and hardest questions I’ve ever been asked, “Do you hate Osama bin Laden for attacking you?”
I didn’t know what to say! How do you respond to a question like that? I didn’t answer right away…I couldn’t. I was thinking to myself, “Do I?” I spent a few moments in silence, where I contemplated the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
I remembered going into New York City with my mother one time when I was a little boy, and she needed to visit the Twin Towers. I had never been in the tallest building in New York before, so it was exciting. After she conducted her busniess, we went to the observation deck, and I got to see the whole city. It was an amazing experiance; I was literally on top of the world, and they were my towers to stand on! So the Twin Towers have always held a special place in my heart. But now they are gone, fallen by hijacked planes, killing 2,606 people in the process. One of them was a firefighter named Michael Kiefer, who was a friend of our family.
Thinking all of this in a matter of moments, I responded to the young African boy who asked the question. I said, “No. I don’t hate him. I don’t like what he did, but I don’t hate him personally.”
I didn’t say it because it was “the right thing to say”, I said it because it was true. I did not hate bin Laden or Al Quida for attacking America.
Dislike, and upset?
A desire to see justice served?
But hate, and unforgiveness?
We all deserved the cross, we all deserve forgiveness. Everyone deserves forgiveness, even the people who attacked my people, my country, my state, my City, and my towers.
The boy just looked at me, shocked by my answer. And to be frank, I was shocked too.
I will never forget September 11th, 2001, nor will I ever forget that question asked by an African boy.
Now it’s your turn, readers. Where were you when 9/11 happened? What would your response be if that boy asked you the same question? Answer honestly.