Today was a special day for me. Just another busy day doing missionary work, meeting with our two wonderful young missionaries who are my assistants, having our Tuesday morning devotional with the two couples who serve in the office and who head our humantarian project work here.
What made it special was remembering about six years ago today. For sure, there will be lots of news stories etc. in America to remind you of six years ago. Here in Congo, in our cocoon, there were no special stories or reminders. But thinking about this day made it very special.
Where were you six years ago today? Remember what you were doing? It's one of those questions now that goes along with, "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" (if you happen to be 50 plus years old).
Steve Gibson, a great associate for many years in the BYU Entrepreneurship Program, and I had taken a late plane on September 10th to Honolulu, where we were going to work with the BYU-Hawaii Entrepreneurship program people for several days. We'd gotten to bed about 11 pm Hawaii time (about 3 am Utah time). At 3:45 Honolulu time in the morning, the phone roused me from a deep slumber. It was Steve, with a tone of urgency in his voice -- "Meet me in the lobby in 20 minutes!!" "Why?", I mumbled. "Turn on your TV and see what's happening!!", was his terse reply.
The images were too incredible to imagine. As soon as the picture flickered to life, I saw the first of the two World Trade Towers collapse. Having spent many days in those buildings, and eaten dinner several times in the Top of the World Restaurant on the 107th floor, it was too incredible to think that the first tower had collapsed in a gigantic cloud of dust, and the other was blazing in the last minutes of its agony. I watched spellbound and shocked, to see the destruction and then the second tower collapse in slow motion, like a planned demolition. Only it wasn't, and there were thousands of people trapped in those buildings. Our rooms were at the top of a tall Waikiki hotel, and Steve correctly felt that we should get out of there as soon as possible.
Eventually we headed up to BYU-Hawaii, where President Shumway led a very silent and somber studentbody assembly, to give them a message of assurance, that our Heavenly Father's plan for his children was a one of happiness. Steve and I called Bette and Marsha, and wondered how we would get home, as we heard of the shutdown of the commercial aviation system.
In those days following 9-11, there was an incredible outpouring of patriotism for this land that all of us love, deep down in our hearts. We felt righteous indignation at terrorists who would turn our greatest asset, our freedom, into our greatest liability. I remember driving by Deer Creek Reservoir, close to Provo, and thinking how easy it would be for a terrorist to put some awful toxin in our water.
For a time, we all had an intense, and visible love for America. Remember all the flags, the memorial moments at public events like sporting events, singing "God Bless America" in the 7th inning stretch of the World Series, the stickers on everything that proclaimed our love for America? And there was a strong feeling of association with God. The phrase on the coin of "In God We Trust" was suddenly a feeling, a passion, and not just a target of the ACLU.
As someone born elsewhere who became an American citizen, I felt a particular love for a country who would be willing to welcome so many people from other lands to partake in its freedom, its opportunities, and its promise to "give me your tired, your poor, your heavy laden....".
Fast forward six years to today. I hope you have a special feeling for this land. It's not perfect, but it sure beats anything else. How long did it take us to set aside or loosen our grip on the intense patriotism that we felt? Viewing America from afar on this day, I love her with all my heart. I am proud to be an American (and also a Canadian). I'm grateful for a country that will give so much of its resources and its people to defend freedom on foreign soil. It's been almost 200 years since Americans fought on their own soil to defend their own country. How many times since then has this great country been willing to fight on someone else's soil for the rights of peoples of that country? And then to extend fortunes of reconstruction funds to help rebuild those whom we fought? And name one country that has given a 10th, or a 40th, of the aid that America has given freely to other countries.
We see a lot of countries here, trying to do good and help the people of Africa. The other day, someone asked, "How many foreign countries give aid to the United States?" We were hard pressed to think of an answer.
When missionaries return from other countries, one of their most intense feelings is that initial re-entry into the United States. I look at my passport now, and think about the stamps of all the other countries where we have been, and wish there was a stamp somewhere of the times when we re-entered the U.S., so I could remember that moment of "coming home". Entering the U.S. is so easy for us -- the agent swipes your passport, looks at your picture and the monitor, and says, "Welcome home." You should see what we go through to leave or enter countries over here.
Appreciate her. Love her. Work on making her better. Be a righteous people, so our Heavenly Father will keep His promise that, as long as there are righteous people in this land, He will preserve it. Take good care of her until we can come home.
Love to all -- Don and Marsha