Daily Devotionals

The Light of 9/11

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Scripture“The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble….” – Nehemiah 4:10 


Twenty years ago on this day, I stood motionless in front of my TV as “The Today Show” reported the horrifying plane crashes into New York’s Twin Towers. Hour by hour, black smoke and flames continued to billow from each floor of the two buildings, which slowly gave way, floor by floor, trapping and burying over 2,500 men, women and children. Rubble, nothing left but rubble. Or so it seemed…. 


There’s another story of rubble, found in the Bible’s book of Nehemiah. After the intentional fire and complete demolition of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the Israelites’ holy city was left in ruins. God’s people were taken into captivity, and the rubble remained until generations later when Nehemiah led a charge to return and rebuild. 


Answering God’s call, Nehemiah felt in his heart the strong desire to push past the seemingly impossible. He convinced the Babylonian king to not only allow, but also fund the rebuilding project, and inspired thousands of exiles to accompany him and overcame the opposition of naysayers aimed at halting any progress.  


Can you not imagine the slumping of shoulders as the exiled Israelites first returned to their beloved homeland only to see nothing but piles of rubble? Even after they began their work and saw the stones take new formation, they often felt exhausted and hopeless. The people cried out to their leader, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble…” (Nehemiah 4:10). 


It’s just too much. Have you ever felt this way? This struggle is too much for me to bear. This mountain is too high to climb. There is too much rubble in the way of progress. 


I imagine that was also the feeling of many first responders and family members on 9/11, when the rubble in their lives seemed too much. The losses were too great. The hurt was too large. How could there be any light out of this darkness? 


But just as Nehemiah and the other builders pushed past doubt, fear, and loss, those directly affected by 9/11 deaths decided to push past the struggles in their lives and look instead toward hope.  


Two decades after the September 2001 attacks, the children of the fallen men and women have now grown into adults themselves, many who remember the pain but refuse to remain in the rubble of their past tragedies. Instead, many rose this week to tell their stories of light since 9/11. 


Three young sons of brave first-responders felt inspired by their late fathers and took on similar careers as firefighters and police officers. Another wrote a children’s book on 9/11 and, when invited to read it in a school classroom, met his future wife as a result. Caitlin Leavey and Brittany Oelschlager, who as young girls met at a camp designed for children of 9/11 losses, now continue their late fathers’ legacies by serving in their communities as a teacher/counselor and a social worker; their common seeds of sorrow also led to their lifelong bond as friends, which they both treasure. 


Can there be light in the midst of darkness? In chapter 8 of Nehemiah, after the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the people rejoiced, “and their joy was very great” (v. 17). 


Just the same, there are glimpses of light from 9/11. “And from those really dark, sad days… we can laugh, and I can tell stories about my dad and laugh now…. Trauma is beautiful, because they can get [one to a place of] light with healing and dancing and happiness,” said Brittany Oelschlager. 


Today, take time to remember the rubble of 9/11 as you give a nod to any rubble you’re experiencing in your own life, but refuse to remain there. Look upward with hope. Look with determination for the light, specifically the Light of Jesus Christ. The Light is there. 


Prayer: Father in Heaven, help me focus today on the light that can shine through darkness– Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Amen.


Submitted by Caroline C. Bennett