Terror Strike
~ September 11, 2001 ~

How can I begin to express my feelings over the events that happened last week? Words cannot capture the full spectrum of emotion and thought. I woke up as usual about 7 o'clock on Tuesday morning. I was still sleepy when I turned on the kitchen radio. I heard something about airliners smashing into the world trade center in New York City. At first I thought that it might be a joke of some sort, or maybe advertising for a new disaster movie. When I realized that it was for real, I felt a desire to go back to bed. If I woke up a second time, perhaps this Tuesday morning would begin differently. I continued to listen to the news. After a few moments, my wife joined me in the kitchen and I broke the news to her . She responded with "What! Are you sure?". Then we listened to the news together. I was a hour late for work and when I arrived my co-worker was sitting at her computer terminal but her attention was directed to a small TV. Tears were in her eyes. We watched TV and talked for a while. It did not seem to be a day for working, so I went back home.

Over next few days, I felt numb and sick. I can remember feeling the same way just after my mother died. Last week's trauma was different because most people I met shared this same numbing sickness. The four people in my family reacted differently to this crisis. Since last Wednesday morning, I have flown the American flag from my 2nd floor balcony. I turn on the news but only for a few minutes. I know that the constant news of suffering would cause nothing but suffering in me. My serious-minded older son has been in daily prayer with his religious brothers at a Dominican priory. My happy-go-lucky younger son volunteered for the first time to give blood. This from a young man who has been fearful of needles his whole life. My Korean-born wife watched television, read the newspaper and listened to a sermon in church. She tells me that for the first time in 27 years she feels more like an American than like a Korean. These are strange times indeed.

On Thursday, I received e-mails from my two college friends in Rwanda. Each of them expressed sorrow and offered sympathy for the terrible events that took place in my country. This is also strange to me. It was just in July that I traveled across the world to preach reconciliation and peace to this African country torn apart by war and massive death. How could I have guessed that my two Rwandan friends would me preaching to me about peace and reconciliation in America?

I have read the newspaper for many years. I have always been amused but troubled by the way Americans report on disasters: "During this flood in the Philippines, 100 people died, including 3 Americans" or "This airplane went down in Egypt killing all aboard, including one American". What? Are American lives more precious than foreign lives? Are Americans so important they must be reported separately? While I was focused on my American newspaper, my wife was reading the news in Korean. She interrupted my reading to tell me that out of the thousands killed in New York City maybe forty were Korean. American newspapers are no different than newspapers in Korea. They all focus on fatalities of their own national people. This time we Americans are on the other side of the news. And the news in America is very very grim indeed. To quote Thomas Paine, "These are times that try men's souls".

When sudden terror tears apart the world we thought was ours,
We find how fragile strength can be, how limited our powers.
  As tower and fortress fall, we watch with disbelieving stare
  And numbly hear the anguished cries that pierce the ash-filled air.

Yet most of all we are aware of emptiness and void:
Of lives cut short, of structures razed, of confidence destroyed.
  From this abyss of doubt and fear we grope for words to pray,
  And hear our stammering tongues embrace a timeless Kyrie.

Have mercy, Lord, give strength and peace and make our courage great;
Restrain our urge to seek revenge, to turn our hurt to hate.
  Help us to know you steadfast love, your presence near as breath;
  Rekindle in our hearts the hope of life that conquers death.

A hymn written just last week by Carl P. Daw, Jr., called
"When Sudden Terror Tears Apart".

Listen to the music of 911.

I wrote an article about the terror strikes for the Korean Newpaper.

I wrote a second article about suicide jumpers.

One of my seminary papers dealt with the events of 9-11 in "the problem of pain"

move on from September 11 to Columbus Day