It was nine days after 9/11. I was watching the evening news. In fact, I think the whole world was watching—what would the United States do? How would they react? What about Al Queda? Do they have more attacks planned?
After President Bush’s initial frozen look of shock when he received the news, while reading to classroom of children, he stepped up his game. That initial look did not inspire confidence, but then again, how would you have reacted nine months into your presidency when your chief of staff whispers into your ear, “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.”
Even the kids in the classroom were confused by his change in demeanor. Love him or hate him, President Bush has always been known for his down home, friendly manner that made it even hard for his enemies not to like him, after they actually met him.
“In a heartbeat, he leaned back and he looked flabbergasted, shocked, horrified,” recalls Lazaro Dubrocq, now 17. Another student, 16 [says], “I’ll always remember watching his face turn red. He got really serious all of a sudden. But I was clueless. I was just 7. I’m just glad he didn’t get up and leave, because then I would have been more scared and confused.” Chantal Guerrero, 16, agrees. Even today, she’s grateful that Bush regained his composure and stayed with the students until The Pet Goat was finished. “I think the President was trying to keep us from finding out,” says Guerrero, “so we all wouldn’t freak out.”[i]
This Article is not about Bush
President Bush did regain his composure and reassured the nation that America would hunt down the perpetrators of the Twin Towers attack. But this article is not about America’s response or the rightness or wrongness of President Bush’s wars. This is about what happened to me that night, nine days after 9/11.
The next day, Friday September 21st, I was scheduled to fly to Fort Lauderdale where I would minister. Four things happened within one hour.
- As I walked into my house that evening my wife said to me, “They are expecting more attacks.” A cold shiver went down my spine.
- President Bush spoke to the nation, saying that we had to be vigilant, because intelligence reports say more attacks could be carried out soon. Getting more afraid…
- Next, a video of Osama Bin Laden was played where he gloated and confirmed President Bush’s fears of more planned attacks. (My memory is fuzzy after eleven years as to the exact content of the video, but I do believe there was something about “bringing America to her knees.” What is clear is how I felt after I heard him speak—scared.)
- Then my mother called me. It just so happened that she and my dad would be flying with me the next day to Ft. Lauderdale. It was a funny coincidence; they had a wedding the same weekend and we had booked ourselves on the same flight. However, she called to tell me that she and my father would be canceling their trip. Why? “We don’t think it is wise that all three of us should be on the same plane. If something happened, Elana and the girls would be alone.”
My first response was, I have a better idea: you go risk your life on the plane and I will stay. Why do I have to be the one that Osama kills? That is what I was thinking, but I didn’t actually say it. Instead I hung up the phone and I am sure I had a similar look on my face as when Andrew Card whispered into the ear of President Bush.
Dazed and Confused—Terror at Work in Me
I was terrified. For the next hour or so I walked around my house in a daze. I could not think or focus. I was frozen with fear. Osama Bin Laden wants to kill me. One of his goons might even be on my plane tomorrow.
Finally, I began to pray. “Lord, it seems to me that I should cancel this trip. The leader of the congregation will understand. It is simply not safe.”
I sensed the Lord asking me, “On what topic were you planning to preach?”
“Overcoming the Fear of Terrorism,” I responded. Oops. I realized how absurd I was acting. I was planning on teaching about the supernatural power of God to overcome fear and I was to afraid to go. I knew that if I didn’t go I would be a hypocrite and I could never preach that message again.
I found strength in the Lord and I did travel (and survived!) and in the process I learned a valuable lesson about overcoming fear and wrote a short ebook if you are interested. It is called 7 Keys to Overcoming Fear (of Terror, Sickness, Recession, Death and Anything Else!)