Some incidents impact a nation so dramatically that people never forget where they were when they learned of the event ― September 11, 2001, was such a day.
I was living in northern Virginia and working at the Community Bible Study National Service Center located in Reston, Virginia. Since it was early September it was at the time of year that many of our CBS classes around the country were just getting underway again. All the staff members attended one of the local classes, and a number of my co-workers were at class that morning.
I was in the office when we learned of the news, so immediately the television was turned on and many gathered around to watch and learn of the unfolding events ― and to pray. Our normal office routine allowed for a time every morning when we would gather and pray.
Because of the office’s location in the Washington DC metropolitan area, we were even more impacted because the Pentagon was not far away. Some of our staff either knew people or had family serving in the military. My Navy son was stationed in Florida. My youngest son was a student at the Virginia Military Institute miles away in Lexington, Virginia. He was impacted by the attack on the Pentagon as he was on guard duty at the time and was one of many who had to deliver tragic news to fellow students about their parents. And then our staff heard that Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville, PA was probably intended for the White House or the Capitol.
What we would soon learn was that two of the passengers of Flight 93 were two Community Bible Study Leaders, Don and Jean Peterson. Don was a CBS Teaching Director and Jean was a CBS Prayer Chairman. They lived in New Jersey and were on their way to Yosemite National Park in California for a vacation. They were offered the opportunity to take Flight 93 instead of their later scheduled flight, and took it.
The courageous narrative of how the passengers and crew members aboard the plane planned and overtook the hijackers is powerful. There also were many stories of heroism in New York and Washington.
In the days following September 11 flags appeared everywhere, churches were filled.
And for a time, the United States of America was just that ― united.