As a way of generating pure, unalloyed terror, this was demonically perfect . . . I was immobilized watching a live, instantaneous mass death . . . I was, like most of us, simply terrorized. And it's only now, a decade later, that I've come to see how significant that feeling was, how transformative it would become.
A couple days removed from the 9/11 anniversary, I reflect. The above quote is from an article by Andrew Sullivan in the Sept. 12th issue of Newsweek. Ten years have allowed the words "terror" and "terrorism" to become commonplace. The word has even lost a bit of its . . . terror. Fear and uncertainty have become the "new normal." We come to expect long airport security lines and invasive TSA searches. We are nearly numb to death reports from Iraq or Afghanistan. In the days after 9/11, the media collectively agreed not to show gruesome images of the planes crashing. Now we've seen montages of all the footage, along with bodies falling from the towers.
All of this is to say that we have effectively been terrorized. We are a resilient country, yet we cannot deny that this event has changed us. Sullivan notes that 10 years of distance from the event has revealed how "transformative" it has become. Modern terrorism has done for my generation what World Wars and Great Depressions did for others. If we didn't know it before, we know it now. Life is fragile. Evil is real. Our time uncertain. Peace is not a given. Humans are incredibly vulnerable creatures.
There is a mantra found throughout the Biblical text that is particularly appropriate for a terrorized people. "Fear not." (Josh. 1:9; Judges 6:23; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:5,10; Luke 1:13, 30, 2:10, 5:10; Revelation 1:17). Whether voiced by an angel or Jesus himself, "Fear not" is a repetitive chorus of counter-terrorism found from the Old to the New Testament.
Are we safer 10 years later? That's up for debate. But this simple statement was not given to people who felt safe. God spoke "Fear not," to Joshua and Gideon on the brink of war. Angels spoke it to mournful women at the tomb and trembling men in a field at night. "Fear not" is precisely for those who are in a moment of terror. It doesn't answer "Why?" It doesn't offer a neatly packaged answer. It is a phrase that simply begs you to trust the One who speaks it.