As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Willow Creek Community Church remembers this solemn event as a church community. During the weekend services on September 10 and 11, Willow will remember the tragedy we experienced as a nation and reflect on how God is at work in our broken world. Below is a story from Bill Hybels and how 9/11 impacted one of the members of Willow. What role did the church play as you processed 9/11?
On September 11, 2001, Rob Cataldo was copiloting a Boeing 767 for a major US carrier and en route from Chicago to San Francisco. As always, his trip began with a preflight briefing with the captain, a thorough pre-flight check of the aircraft, and completion of the paperwork necessary to authorize them for departure. But “all things usual” quickly disappeared.
Somewhere over eastern Nebraska, Rob received a message from his airline via the jet’s onboard computer. A Cessna and a Boeing 737 had collided over lower Manhattan. The weather over NYC was bright sunshine and cloudless blue skies and Rob wondered if the single-engine Cessna had wandered into New York’s airspace without permission from air traffic control.
A few minutes later, the dispatcher reported there was “trouble with a plane from our fleet.” Rob searched flight records for the troubled plan, only to discover the records had been secured by his company and were inaccessible. That’s when he knew something was terribly wrong.
The next message from air traffic control instructed every aircraft to land at the nearest suitable airport as soon as possible. At the same time, his airline sent instructions: Due to suspected terrorist hijacking activity, every pilot was to secure their cockpit immediately. Under no circumstances were they to permit entry to anyone. Throughout the entire fleet, pilots closed and locked their cockpit doors and began planning their descent.
It took an hour for Rob and his pilot to get to Denver, and that hour is one Rob won’t easily forget. The captain said his stomach was in knots, but Rob remained strangely calm. Moments before his captain’s admission of fear, Rob had received a whisper from God. “Rob, I have never let you down before, and you can trust me that I never will.”
“God whispered to me that day,” says Rob. “I should have been a basket case, but my Father gave me a deep sense of peace.” Rob was confident in the truth that whatever happened, God was with him. Nothing had changed in their circumstances. The hijacking threat still existed and the pilots still had to get their plane on the ground quickly and safely, which they did. But the team in the cockpit was flying with two totally different perspectives: one fear, one faith. *
This weekend it will be 10 years since 9/11 changed our world. At Willow Creek, we will remember.
As you think through where you were when 9/11 happened, what role did the church play as you processed this tragic event that shook our nation?
*Excerpted from The Power of a Whisper