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What 9/11 Taught Me About Myself — and God

By Mike Signorelli for TOWNHALL

Like millions of Americans, I was at work on 9/11. I was 18 years old, employed at a water facility on Lake Michigan in Chicago.

My coworkers and I gathered around a small television and watched the unthinkable unfold in real time. It was a moment when a country lost its collective innocence. A moment in which we realized things would never be the same. A moment when the promise of eternal sunrise in America looked dim.

And now our group, once solely linked by vocation, had something else in common: fear.

Yet despite the national emergency, there was work to be done.

All around us, 55 million gallons of water surged through our system, making its way to multiple cities —communities that were dependent on this facility.

So, shortly after the attacks, I was placed on security duty, to stand watch at the one gate that led to our main water intake. Government officials had learned of potential threats against public utilities, including anthrax in the water supply. I had felt terror before, but this was the first time I felt a visceral, all-encompassing fear.

I spent the next two weeks guarding that gate. Looking back, the scenario seems implausible, even laughable. I had no weapon, no two-way radio, certainly no experience guarding anything. I was just a frightened teenager stationed as a lookout for an unknown threat.

Those two weeks spent at the gate taught me an important principle: People are comforted by knowing that someone is there. I didn’t need to be the most qualified person for the job. I was willing. I was present. And I took my place.

We cannot change the outcome for the 2,996 people who lost their lives that day. But we can remember them. We can honor them.

One of the best ways to do that is to be present for your loved ones. Be willing. Take your place at the gate. 

Over the years, the threat has changed. The source of our terror has evolved, the danger grown more elusive. But what I learned is that, when your life is submitted to Christ, fear is a choice. So, I encourage you to choose something else: hope.  

As I reflect on 9/11, I want to share a few observations with you. 

First, true evil always reveals true kindness. When evil advances, kindness will appear in response. Evil never wins. 

Second, God always develops the “Josephs” of the world — those who lead, those who affect change — through a long process, knowing those leaders will often debut at the height of a crisis. God is never taken by surprise, and the King always has one more move. 

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Photo credit: Mark Lennihan