“Remember” is a powerful word used often in the scriptures. “Don’t forget,” “Write this down,” “Protect this knowledge,” and other similar warnings are frequent instructions. I have now lived long enough to understand why.
When I studied the Holocaust, I couldn’t imagine how someone could deny its historical reality and significance. When I visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany, it was overwhelming to me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, less than 80 years later, it’s not difficult to spot stories about people who deny that point in history. Pearl Harbor Day, D-Day, and other holidays intended to help us remember them fade from memory all too easily. If you wonder about that, consider Memorial Day as a prime example. Our culture considers it the start of summer, one of the biggest lake-oriented days of the year. Few think of the sacrifices of soldiers while they’re wakeboarding their way to their first sunburn.
So, this week, I have been remembering the 11th of September as one of the hardest days in my history. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news broke on the major networks. I remember the shock of the burning building, immediately assuming that what I saw was an accident. Then, the second plane hit the other tower of the World Trade Center, and I heard the words come out of my mouth: “We are at war.” And I remember the older friend who walked into my office in tears to tell me that his niece was on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.
New York’s 9/11 memorial is a physical expression of how I felt that day: a gaping hole in my heart formed that day. Even after two decades, that wound still feels raw. And I don’t want it to stop feeling raw. I want to remember the men and women who were calling for help. I want to remember the soldier who called his dad with this cryptic message: “I can’t tell you where I’m going, but I’m leaving the country, and you know why. I’ll try to be safe, and I’ll do my best.” Twenty minutes later, that dad was kneeling with me in the sanctuary to beg God for his son’s safe return someday.
Remember, friends. Not for vengeance, not for racism, not for artificially induced rage, but for the precious value of freedom and those who risk their lives every day to protect it–remember.