12 Years Later
On September 11, 2001 I was in Tema, Ghana.
It was the end of an international missions conference and as I arrived for the final session that evening I immediately knew something was wrong. Instead of being inside the meeting hall several of my American friends were sitting outside on the steps, talking, crying, and praying. The next few hours were a whirlwind of conflicting information about what was really going on back home in the United States.
The ensuing three days in Ghana would consist of watching the international news from my hotel and emailing friends and loved ones. With plans changed (my original plans had me going to Lebanon from Ghana) and many questions still unanswered, I boarded a plane on September 14 in hopes of going back home.
Arriving at Heathrow Airport from Ghana I had no idea how long I might be there. Some people had been stranded in the airport for three days and while the packed terminals resembled something more like a refugee camp there was also a strange calm. After several conversations with exhausted airport personnel I found an empty corner and sat down to wait.
A short time later I heard an announcement over the airport intercom system inviting people to an interdenominational chapel service hosted in a nearby terminal. Curious about what a chapel service in an airport might look like, I went.
I don’t remember what scripture was shared or song was sung but I remember the people. In this small chapel room in the airport, people from different denominational backgrounds, countries, and cultures had all gathered together. In that moment there was a sense that we all had the same central desire – to focus on the hope that only God can bring in a time of crisis.
I’ll never forget this sense of belonging and unity as we prayed together and shared our stories. To this day that little chapel gathering in Heathrow airport was one of the most powerful – yet simple – church gatherings I’ve ever been a part of. I will never forget the lives lost on 9/11 but I will also never forget the hope that only God can bring when his people look to him in times of crisis.