The day I thought I lost my husband

Recollections of September 11, 2001

“Fear not.” It is the command most repeated in scripture. “Fear not.” We need to be reminded on an almost daily basis. God knows you. God cares for you. God is capable of protecting and providing.

Five years after I left Wheaton College I married an Army Special Forces officer. A couple of years later I began to struggle with mini panic attacks. I was deluged with fears that I would lose my husband. Every parachute jump, every last minute deployment to an unknown location, every late night phone call raised my stress level. Officers in uniform rang my doorbell at Ft. Campbell one afternoon, looking for someone else while doing a death notification. I about fainted. 

A wise friend intervened, telling me, “You must fight these fears – all fears are based on a lie. Find out what lies you have believed and replace them with truth.” Indeed fear is a terrible thing. Fear robs us of our joy and peace, destroys our spiritual growth, frustrates God’s plans for us, opens the door for the enemy, and wastes our time! I searched to identify the lies that had invaded my thinking and I worked for months to replace those lies with truth. Verses on God’s love and concern for me, His sovereignty, His protection, and His provision covered my refrigerator door.

Later that year we were reassigned to the Pentagon. September 11, 2001 was my husband’s second week of work in the J-2, Africa Branch. I watched the first plane crash in New York on tv while getting my oil changed, and then the second plane hit the towers and I knew we had a problem. I went home and my house phone rang. It was another Army wife – “Is Ross ok?” “I think so, why?” Silence. She told me that a plane had just hit the Pentagon. I got off the phone. I took a deep breath and walked upstairs to get my Bible. We had not even unpacked our television yet. I sat down on the bed and opened my Bible to one of the verses I had studied earlier – Deuteronomy 32:39 “There is no God besides me. I put to death and I bring life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” As I waited for news I was reminded again of God’s sovereignty, His love, and His promise of provision. I was strangely calm. If Ross was gone, well, he was gone. There was nothing I could do about it.

The call finally came several hours later – my husband was fine.  He had been underground when the plane hit and they had evacuated to the parking lot where uncertainty and misinformation created havoc. He always says it was a strange feeling trying to account for everyone in his office, looking for cover from possible incoming planes while standing in a huge barren parking lot with the building on fire, and then the relief they all felt when fighter jets showed up… and the weirdness of all of it happening in our own country. He stood on top of a truck when the cell phone finally connected and I wrote down names and phone numbers of survivors as quickly as I could until the call was dropped. I spent the next hour calling each number and reporting to wives and parents all over the country that their loved one was ALIVE, just stuck in the Pentagon parking lot. I’ll never forget those calls. He would later walk several miles home because his truck was cordoned off in the impact zone. He was fine, but for months we grieved with others from our community and church who suffered burns or lost loved ones. I am also indebted to the life of Todd Beamer, made famous for organizing the take down of hijacked Flight 93 over Pennsylvania – Todd was a classmate, fellow economics major, and baseball player at Wheaton College. 

I was grateful for lessons learned earlier that year about fighting fear-inducing lies with truth. I found peace.  I also learned that God does not always spare us from harm or loss, but He is good and faithful through it all. The truths of God’s character are timeless, and they have kept us sane through many dangers, toils, and snares.

My 10 month old daughter and I welcomed him home with open arms that night. I hated it when he went back to work at 5AM the next morning while the Pentagon was still burning.  “We’re going to war,” he said and I was reminded to never take for granted something as simple as a husband coming home from work.

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