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    National Chief of Chaplains: 10 years ago, 'everything changed' with 9/11

    September 9, 2011


    Flying almost directly over the World Trade Center site, a New York Wing aircrew saw and photographed this scene of devastation a day after the terrorist attacks 10 years ago Sunday. This site in lower Manhattan became the final resting place for nearly 3,000 people.
    Photo by Lt. Col. Warren Ratis, New York Wing

    Pennsylvania artist Diane Kraus based this painting — one of the first things visitors to CAP National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., see as they enter the building — of a CAP Cessna 172 flying over the World Trade Center the day after Sept. 11 — on photographs taken by the first New York Wing aircrew to fly over the site. The painting was commissioned by CAP's Southeast Region and presented as a gift to the organization in 2004. Prints of “We Were There” are available through the artistʼs website.
    Photo by Susan Schneider, National Headquarters

    Chaplain Col. J. Delano Ellis II

    National Chief of Chaplains

    The world has changed significantly since that awe-filled morning when three commercial airliners were forced into the lives of nearly 3,000 families. Travel has changed, and we all feel the vulnerability that attaches itself to our desires to freely move around in the Land of the Free.

    Can't you remember where you were and exactly what you were doing when those airplanes slammed, wantonly, into the Twin Towers? To then hear reports of another plane hitting the side of our military nerve center while a final plane ripped through the farmlands of Pennsylvania, one would have to conclude that our freedoms were threatened and the sacred land called America might now be in the hands of the untoward of this world.

    Everything changed. Tragedy in the Big Apple and at Shanksville and at the Pentagon meant there was tragedy everywhere. We watched, with agony and helplessness, our fellow citizens free-fall from unfathomable heights and plunge to their eternities. 

    Yes, everything changed.

    People now spoke to each other in the busy streets of our land. Chapels, churches, synagogues, mosques and cathedrals of all persuasions were filled with citizens who made their petitions to the Holy One they had been taught about at their mother's knee. Prayer and reflection became a staple of American society once again.

    Now, here we are at the first decade memorial of that infamous 9/11, and our nation is called upon to remember while we try to forget.

    We are called upon to remember those brave and suffering souls whose lives were taken away without a chance to reverse their destinies. We are being asked to remember the brave first responders who went in and out of those burning buildings until some went in, never to return again. Yes, we should remember those brave Civil Air Patrol pilots who dared to fly over the carnage and give America her first photographic journal of the work of the wicked. We shall never forget the courageous men and women of our armed forces who obeyed the command to go and root out those responsible for the mayhem on our mainland.

    But my hope and prayer is that we will also use this time to forget. I pray that we can forget the strife and injustice that can so easily become the second nature of this beautiful land. Let us forget the habits of the heathen that would draw our hearts away from our God.

    Remembering this second Memorial Day, let's begin again to speak to our neighbors and smile at the despondent. Let's give again, prudently, to the poor. Let's watch for each other and protect children, for they are our future.

    Yes, "everything has changed," but the creator of the universe changes not. The psalmist, David, said;  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear."
    Be blessed, everyone.

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    105 South Hansell Street
    Bldg. 714
    Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-5937
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