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The Hand of God
Kurt Heckman

I wish I could write something that expresses the emotions that Americans are having related to September 11th, and I wish I could write it in a way that would let the reader say, "that's exactly how I feel" and in doing so alleviate some part of their pain. Unfortunately my own experience isn't broad enough, nor my skill sharp enough for a universal expression. With this acknowledged, I will attempt to speak for myself. I'm a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, an employer, and a Christian. The odd thing is that each of these characteristics requires my concern for the well being of others, whether I'm "loving and cherishing my wife, till death do us part" or whether I'm "giving a cup of water in God's name".

On the morning of September 11th, I kissed my wife and children goodbye and went to work. I first heard about the events happening in New York via an instant message from my employee in Colorado Springs. He was still home and was watching it unfold on TV. Then other messages came on IM from employees with radios. It was almost unbelievable that an airplane could have crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Everyone at the office thought it was an accident at first, but then came news of the second plane, and then the Pentagon. Between the first tower collision and the Pentagon, I—and the nation—realized that we were under attack, and these events were no longer just a news story but something that would change my life, my history, and my present concerns. My family lives only a few miles from Camp David, and one of my employees was in downtown D.C. My paramount concern was the safety of those for whom I'm responsible. Where are they? What can I do to protect them?

While still at work, I heard that the Metro was still open and that our employee would be able to leave the city. At that point, I sent everyone in the company home. No place seemed safe, certainly no public place. Karen and the children were home when I got there. We all watched the television hoping for answers. After an hour, we turned it off. The immediate questions, the urgent questions, were answered. The people I loved were safe for now—stunned, confused, and a little frightened, but safe. But after the initial relief from being reunited with my loved ones and knowing that they were all safe for the moment, depression set in. How could I be happy or even comfortable, when so many others were grieving? I didn't think I had the right to be happy.

The next morning, I went back to work. What good would it do to stay home? Once there, I wrote a note to the company. I thanked them for returning to work and asked them to have hope. Sometimes hope is a choice, and we each needed to choose to hope that tomorrow would be better than today. In the days immediately following the attacks, hope carried me.

Still, the waves of uncertainty and sadness were not calmed. A few days after the attacks, I found out that I had known one of the victims. A work associate, who had been in my office only weeks earlier, was on the plane that went into the Pentagon. He left behind a wife and children. I didn't know him well, but I still could ache for his wife, children, parents, and friends. He was remarkably like me. It made me ask, why I was spared?

We will all die. Everyone who is precious to me, everyone who makes my time on this green earth bearable and sometimes wonderful, will someday die. So where is God in all of this? He is no stranger to death. He even died. He died in a way much more horrible than even the collapse of a skyscraper. My hope is that, like Him, the ones I love will rise and live in eternity with me and with Him.

Still, where was He on September 11th? I know He was with me; He was the hope that carried me. But He wasn't just with me. I'm convinced He was on each plane pleading with each terrorist not to use their God-given free will to crush the lives of others. He was with every soul who would shortly face Him in eternity pleading that they accept his free gift of forgiveness on earth before He would have to judge their lives in heaven. He was fathering the now-orphaned children, comforting the now-widowed wives, and taking the profound hate of the terrorists in His hand and covering it with compassion.
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