How I Remember September 11, 2001

15 years ago today, I had just finished working out in the fitness center of the American United Life Tower – now One America – in Indianapolis.  I had just showered and was getting dressed when someone said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  By the time I got out, many were glued to the TV.  A second plane had hit the second tower. We all knew it had to be a planned terrorist attack.  I immediately suspected, as did many others, that al Qaeda was responsible as they had attacked the embassies previously.  Of course, we soon learned that in fact they were the perpetrators.  We were completely stunned as watched the towers engulfed in flame and smoke and were horrified as people jumped to their deaths to escape the flames.

I shortly went upstairs to work.  Everyone was glued to internet news.  One Tower collapsed and we were completely dismayed.  The second tower collapsed and we were sickened.  We learned that the Pentagon had been hit.  While there was no evidence there was a threat to our building – the 2nd tallest in Indianapolis – we could not help but worry that we might be next and what was next.  Who was safe? How large was this attack?  Were my wife and children safe?  We were released to go home as no one was able to get work done.

The world changed that day in so many ways.  I remember days of no contrails in the skies and no planes overhead. Shortly afterward came the anthrax attacks.  No one felt safe.  We all lived in fear.  We were horrified at what had happened in New York and Washington.  Yet stories of courage came from those hours.  We heard of the bravery of first responders in New York.  The stories of survival from the towers and in the Pentagon.  Perhaps most stunning was the story of Flight 93 and courage of those passengers who likely gave their lives to save others from another attack.

We were unified as a nation in resolve as firefighters raised a flag over the ruins of the towers.  We rallied around the President – who had not won the popular vote in the last election – and were heartened by his grabbing a bullhorn and letting the terrorists know that would hear from us and that they would be held responsible.  Parties didn’t matter. We were all Americans and we had been attacked.

The fear from that day changed us in many ways.  We demanded that the government deal with terrorists aggressively and surrendered many freedoms.  I most cognizant of the scrutiny we now endure to board a plane as I write this in the air today.  We enacted laws like the Patriot Act which gave our government the ability to intrude upon our privacy in a much greater way.

I guess it’s easy for me to reflect upon my own reactions and memories today being in the air on this day.  I certainly had some trepidations about flying today.  However, what happened 15 years ago is so much larger than our personal memories, fears and reflections.  3,000 Americans perished suddenly that day.  They went to work like any ordinary day. They had no idea it would be their last day.  Their families had no idea they would never see their loved ones again.  None of these had anything to do with the complaints of the terrorists.  They were ordinary Americans.

In addition to the ordinary citizens that were lost, many first responders died doing what they were trained to do – save lives, sometimes at the expense of their own.   Many more have died since due to diseases from inhaling toxic fumes and dust from the debris as they sought to find survivors and recover the remains of those we lost.

As we reflect this day on the events of 15 years ago, think about the families who lost and may we be ever mindful of those we love.  Don’t take them for granted.  Don’t put off telling them how much you care.

Also as we reflect on the events of that day, I remember vividly how we came together as a nation.  No one decided to use the national anthem as a political statement.  People realized that as Americans we are all in this together.  We stood as God Bless America was sung and many, including me, were brought to tears.  We did not focus on our differences.  We focused on what we had in common.

I don’t mean to minimize racial divides in our country or the inequities that are present.  We are not perfect and we need to address those issues.  However, need to reclaim that sense of what we have in common.  We need to remember why we pursue justice and equality – because that is our heritage.  We need to remember that those 3,000 died not because of what is wrong with America.  They died because the perpetrators hated everything that unites us.  The dead included many faiths, races, LGBT and straight.

The rancor of this election has had little to do with our shared values.  We need to embrace those values – without losing the sense of urgency to address wrongs in our society or wrongfully denying they exist.

Let us remember those who left us that day.  Let us remember the courage of those sacrificed all to save lives.  Let us also remember for whom they sacrificed themselves – fellow Americans of all faiths, races, preferences and genders.  For those in the NFL protesting today, you picked the wrong day. It’s pretty clear you don’t understand what the flag means.  Ask those firemen.



Christmas Displays the Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man


No eye was upon Bethlehem.  Few upon Judea.  The world was Rome.  Well, so, it thought in 5 BC.  Of course, the world was a lot bigger than that.  In Japan, the legendary Suinin – one of Japan’s most famous Emperors was at the peak of his power.   The Han Dynasty held sway in China, but began its decline as the Confucian scholars declared they had lost their mandate from Heaven.  The Mayans were at the peak of their civilization cutting out hearts and making lots of predictions.

The Parthians held sway in the East, from which the famous Magi would come.  The year prior Phraates V had taken the throne of Parthia marrying his own mother – a slave girl who been a “gift” to his father from Roman Emperor Augustus.

In Rome, Augustus plotted to place his adopted children in positions of power, while his own wife plotted with her son Tiberius to advance his own interests against theirs.  Some speculate that Augustus’ death was not due to natural causes.

In  Damascus, Publius Quinctilius Varus, the Roman governor of the province of Syria stood in readiness to pounce upon prey.  Herod the Great, the ruler of the Roman client state of Judea was dying and raving mad.  He was preparing to execute his heir Antipater and his other sons were plotting against each other.  The radicals were ready to revolt upon Herod’s death and Varus was ready.

In Jerusalem, all wondered how long the king would linger – how many he would kill before dying.  While many marveled at the new Temple, which was even grander than Solomon’s Temple had been, they were horrified that a Roman Eagle had been placed upon its gate and some were determined to take it down even at the cost of their life.

Taxes.  Everyone must pay them.  In order to collect them, a census was ordered.  Again, no one looked to Bethlehem – except those who were from there and must go there.  Everyone else looked elsewhere for deliverance, but none was to be found.  Except those few, including the Magi, who bothered to read a passage from the obscure prophet Micah:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.”

While the world swirled in conspiracy, intrigue, murder and hatred, a newly married couple expecting a child rode to Bethlehem just doing what the state asked them to do – register and pay their taxes.  There was no room for them.  While many would like to make analogies to events today, they are not right.  It was no one’s fault at the time.  However, it would display the wisdom of God.  In a place where no one was looking because they were looking everywhere else, God gave us the greatest gift of all.

In poverty, in homelessness, without power or grandeur was born the greatest who has ever been born or ever shall be.  And so, the Wisdom of God has confounded the wise and brought low every prince.  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

May the Blessings of Christmas be upon you and your families now and in the coming year.  May we know the reality of the Prince of Peace.

The First (Official) Thanksgiving – November 26, 1789


Thanksgiving was a tradition in New England from the very beginning celebrating the feast often popularly described with the new arrived Pilgrims and Native Americans.  However, its national adoption has been much more recent.  It was first made national by our first President, George Washington by Presidential Proclamation in 1789.  The Proclamation reads as follows:


Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.


Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”


Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.


And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.


Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


Go. Washington


May you and yours enjoy a wonderful day together and remember the purpose of this day, which is to give thanks for the many blessings we have been afforded as Americans.