Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fear Not!

by C.J. Chase
Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news on 9/11?

My story is so mundane for someone who lived so near to the events. I'd put son #1 on the bus to his new first grade class, dialed up AOL to download my email, and then expected to spend a quiet morning writing. No radio. No television. No Internet. So when my mom called mid-morning to see if I'd heard from my husband, I wracked my brain, trying to figure out why in the world he should have called me on a Tuesday morning. 

My husband was fine, thankfully. He worked at the Washington Navy Yard, just a couple miles due east of the Pentagon on the other side of the Potomac River -- close enough to hear the explosion of the impact.

The afternoon was chaotic as government offices and business closed and evacuated the city. Cell phone communications failed. Friends and relatives from around the country tried to reach me on the house phone only to find they couldn't get through. When I finally reach my husband -- via his landline and not his cell phone -- he was stuck in DC. On his base, they had closed the gates, locked everyone in/out, and gone to war.

In the hours that followed, we anxiously awaited word about friends and relatives who worked in the Pentagon. For days, people wore the dazed expressions of shellshock. Even years later, clear-sky autumn weather would trigger memories of that day.

On an intellectual level, we knew we lived in a target-rich location. During the Cold War, Washingtonians feared a Soviet nuke. Radical leftists had attacked the Pentagon in 1972. In 1993, a Muslim jihadi had gone on a shooting rampage at a traffic light near the CIA, only minutes after my husband had driven through the intersection.

But 9/11 was different. Bigger. Scarier.

After 9/11, anti-aircraft missiles took up residence near bridges, on buildings, and around the Pentagon. Instead of traffic conditions, electronic message signs displayed hotline numbers to report suspicious activity. Checkpoints appeared at major events on the Mall and at the Smithsonian museums we had so freely waltzed in and out of in a more innocent age.

Washington changed that day. The attack on the Pentagon was quickly followed by anthrax poisonings and sniper shootings. By the fall of 2002, the tension had become palpable. Everywhere we went, we were reminded that our country was at war, that death could come at any moment. Even now ten years later, re-living those days brings back the old fears.

Some claim there are 365 verses in the Bible where God admonishes us not to be afraid--one for every day of the year. God gave us emotions, including fear. But He also instructs us not to allow our lives to be ruled by fear.

Fear not, Moses said to the people when they stood between the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army.

Be strong and courageous, God told the Israelites when they stood on the threshold of the Promised Land.

Don't be afraid, the angel said to Gideon.

The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
Fear not, the angel said to Mary at the annunciation, and to Joseph in a dream, and to the shepherds in the field, and to the women at the tomb.

Sometimes when anxiety for the future threatens to overwhelm me, I think back to those first century Christians. How easily they could have allowed fear to paralyze them -- a few people against the mightiest empire the world had ever seen, refusing to say the emperor was God despite threats of torture and death. "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer," Jesus instructed John to write during the dark days of Domitian's reign. "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown." (Rev 2: 10)

Like the patriarchs, the prophets, and the early church, we live in a fallen world, a world ruled by our adversary who prowls around "like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (I Peter 5:8) And contrary to all the admonitions to "fear not," God warns us to fear him, the one with the power to destroy not just the body, but the soul (Matthew 10:28).

Every crisis presents us with an opportunity to show the love and faithfulness of God. This is the victory that overcomes the world, John told the early followers, even our faith that Jesus is the Son of God (I John 5:5). And overcome they did. Their faith turned that empire, and eventually the world, upside down.

Today is an emotional day, full of tragedy and tears. But don't forget the triumph yet to come. We worship an all-powerful God, who declares these troubles, this entire world even, is only temporary. "Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,...He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21: 1, 4)

He will judge between the nations
   and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
   and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
   nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

Do you remember what you were doing when you heard about the 9/11 attacks? Do you have any sad or poignant memories of 9/11?

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Redeeming the Rogue is an August, 2011 release. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


  1. Thanks C.J. I love the verses you chose.
    I think one of the things I'll remember most is the feeling of wondering if I could ever smile or laugh again.

    Another was the patriotism and dropping of party lines for a few days.

    I have to admit I have the Lee Greenwood song stuck in my mind.

  2. Thanks, CJ

    Memories of 9/11 are still fresh, and I've been avoiding footage. Do I really need to watch the towers fall, over and over again?

    I remember the day well. Rob was heading out in a rental car on another business trip to New Jersey. I had the morning news programs on, and was putting on a pot of corn chowder early, before getting into a morning of homeschooling.

    Somewhere along the line, my mother called (before her diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's)--and I think I was giving her my recipe over the phone when the stations went live to coverage of the World Trade center, and then with a picture in picture of smoke rising from the Pentagon, but even they didn't know what they were looking at.

    When the plane hit the second tower, I saw it live, and it took me forever to process what was happening. In a way, I'm still at that stage.

  3. Deb, I was surprised when I started compiling verses about fear. They were all familiar, but I'd never put them together. They are so powerful when you put them together.

    And the verses from Revelation 2 about persecution show that things don't always turn out "good" (like the Red Sea parting or walls of Jericho falling -- and yet we are still to trust God and not fear.

  4. Barb, I was looking for stock photos of 9/11, and decided NOT to include one. I

    Of course, I had a line about Mary and the angel that got left on the cutting room floor because it didn't fit the mood of the post. Can you imagine what Mary was thinking to the "Fear not" command? I'm unmarried and pregnant in a culture that stones adultresses, and you're telling me to 'Fear not'?

  5. I, like Barbara, watched the second plane crash live and then watched people jumping off like little fleas live, and then the towers crash live. There really was something very traumatic about seeing it all happen even from such a distance. Because we live in a Navy area, the school called for us to pick up our children at 12:00. No one knew if we would be next, and if we were, they wanted kids with their families.

    As someone who has lived through a real war in Lebanon, I would have to say that 9-11, even from a far distance, was almost as bad as hearing bombs drop and the house shaking.

  6. I heard about the first plane hitting on the radio at work and I thought it must have been some sort of accident, and I also assumed it had been a small plane like a cessna. I saw the second crash live like some of you all.

    I worked downtown in Columbus, OH and everyone in the city seemed to have been sent home. Traffic was a nightmare and when I made it I remember just sitting and watching the reports. I saw the towers fall and just sobbed.

    There were so many reports and rumors flying around that day about other targets. They broke in with the news about the Pentagon and then flight 93. I couldn't seem to move from the couch. Even though it was warm outside I was wrapped up in blankets, and kept shivering.

    But the aftermath (at least for a little while) was unity and resolve even in our shock. That is one of the things I remember the clearest.

  7. I live on the west coast, so it was still quite early for us when the first plane hit the tower. Still, my husband watched the second plane hit, live. Our newborn woke up, my husband changed the baby's diaper, and then had the strong sense that he should turn on the morning news (something we rarely did).

    I came out to the family room right after that. We were horrified, stunned...We turned the TV off before our older child awoke in order to shield her. I remember wondering what was happening, when it would end, what could we do...and praying, even though I remember not knowing exactly what to pray for.

    I worked so hard to protect my preschooler from the traumatic images, so I kept the TV off when she was home.

    Thanks for the verses, CJ. A powerful post.

  8. I was working at Time Warner Cable in Akron, Ohio. We had TVs on all the time, so we immediately saw the news. We watched the 2nd plane hit and finally, as reports of all four planes came in, it sunk in that it wasn't a big, terrible accident. We were actually being attacked. I remember sitting in my boss's office, watching his TV, and he was saying, "How are they ever going to fix that? How do you repair a big hole in a building 100 stories up?" And then the tower fell, and we got our answer. You don't. It was horrific, especially since Marcus was flying at the time. Billy was at school, probably the safest place for him to be, but all I wanted to do was gather my family together.

  9. Wow. Just thinking back to that day and the days afterward gives me a shiver.

    I had just come from dropping off one of my cats at the vet. I got in the car, and the radio was talking about the first tower falling. Then the second one fell. It was terrifying.

    But God has had mercy on our country, even when I know some of the things we've done as a nation and some of the things our society accepts as "normal" must be a stench in His nostrils.

    Out of His mercy, He continues to bless and protect us.

    Our flag is still there!

  10. Dina, interesting that the schools called to pick up the kids. Our schools (Fairfax County then, in suburban DC) didn't dismiss early, but they canceled classes for the next day (Wednesday the 12th).

  11. Lisa, we had the same traffic nightmare in DC. Many of the office closed and a lot of people evacuated DC. The cell phone towers were overloaded, so communication was pretty much down.

    A friend of ours who'd been in the Pentagon (different side), talked afterward about how he couldn't reach his wife to tell he was fine for hours because of the combo of no cell phones and snarled traffic.

    My husband got stuck in DC when they locked the base down, so he didn't come home until that night. By that time, there was NO traffic at all. After he came home, we took the kids out of the house and went for a walk. We had never, ever heard the area so quiet -- no planes, no traffic.

  12. After my mother and I settled down, we went outside, lifted our hands toward NYC and prayed God's power and mercy to fall in a mighty way.

    Then (might be the Celtic blood??) I also turned around, pointed my shiny side to my determined source of this attack and added a not so nice challenge.
    sounds a little Braveheart-ish now that I think of it, but I'm really a nice girl. ahem.

  13. Susie, it was a scary time to have small children, wondering why kind of world they are going to inherit.

    That's why I keep going back to those verses about the early church. They lived in a decadent culture (like ours is becoming) that persecuted Christians, and they triumphed.

  14. Jen, I understand your desire to act like a mother and and just gather your family under your wing. My older son was at school, and I had to fight the temptation to go get him. (For what purpose? Just to hold him.) So I just held tight to my younger son.

  15. I was at church, having corporate prayer with several others. A church member called us to ask if we'd heard the news. We started to pray immediately.
    When I got home I turned on the TV just about the time the first tower collapsed. It was like one trauma upon another.
    And what I remember most from the days that followed was the empty expanse of sky overhead... no jet trails.

  16. DeAnna, I get the same shivers, including sometimes when I'm not expecting it and an unexpected memory hits me.

    As you said, God's mercy to a fallen world is amazing!

  17. Deb, you wild woman.

    Sometime when you're driving by, we have to get together. I have a story to share with you.

  18. Niki, we lived near Dulles Airport. We weren't directly under flight paths, but we could still hear the planes. What I noticed was the eerie silence, except for the occasional fighter jets.

    What a "good" memory that you were already in prayer when the news came in.

  19. CJ I'd love to hear that story. thanks for not tossing that blatently rebellious remark from your devotional comments. But now I'm quite curious about your story...


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