On the morning of September 11, 2001, I just returned home from my job at an IT call center in Houston, TX, and learned the World Trade Center Towers had been attacked. I left my living room and came back just in time to see Tower 2, the place where I worked before leaving New York City to move back to Houston in May 2001, get hit live on TV. Obviously the nation as a whole has changed since then in so many ways. Every year since then, on this date, I am reminded of the enormity of what happened. The rest of the day is mostly a blur. However, I do remembering staying glued to the TV and taking phone calls from family and friends who heard/saw it as well and knew that I worked in the WTC before leaving New York. My father, who suffered 3 heart attacks from late 2000 to March 2001, said to me that he would have had another heart attack if I was still in New York working that day. The gravity of his words are with me even to this day, but to fully understand it, I must give a brief background of my 9-11 story.
I moved to New York in May 1998 to start a new life while I was in my mid-twenties. Three years later, I was living on my own, had made new friends, was active in a local church and truthfully wanted no part of returning to Houston, but God had other plans. After my Dad's third heart attack, I received a warning from two separate pastors that I should leave New York and return home. I was really conflicted about what to do, because one of the last things I wanted to do was give up my job and my apartment to go back to Texas to live in Houston again. I also felt like I should have heard from God for myself about such an important decision. However, the only thing I would hear from Him when in prayer about it was two words: “Trust me”. One of the ministers also said something in a conversation I had with her about grappling with the warning she gave me that really grabbed my attention: “What if something happens and you can’t leave New York and will be full of regret.” Truthfully, that got to me, and I didn’t want to take the chance on not heeding their warnings. My last week of work, I look pictures of the view from the floor that I worked on, which was the 97th floor, and a picture of the towers from the ground floor, not knowing that would be the last time I saw them in person.
I wish I could say that I was elated about being back home, but I was far from it. Fortunately I found a job in a month, but it was working the graveyard shift at night 4 days a week. I struggled with depression, questioning why I had to come back to Houston, even while reuniting with my family and long-time friends. Fast-forward to 9/11/2001 and I was still struggling with being back home and depressed. I called a friend while driving home, and just before I reached home, said to him “ I feel restless”. A few minutes later, the USA as we all knew it, was forever changed.
Less than a year later, I met with an acquaintance at a youth conference in 2002, and when I shared my 9-11 testimony with her, she said something that I haven't thought of very often, but it stayed with me nonetheless. She wondered out loud what caused God to get me out of New York 4 months ahead of time? I realize that I had made the decision to stay and not return home, stayed on my job at the WTC that God may have still spared my life. But what if I hadn’t? I would have missed out on so many things. Some of them that stand out to me:
-- Getting to see my parents become grandparents for the first time, and then welcome a second, third fourth and a little over a month ago, a fifth grandchild
-- Seeing my brother Maurice get married four years later and celebrating his new life with him and his wife
-- I would have missed meeting my brother Perry
-- Going to Jamaica for the 2nd and 3rd time and witness my youngest brother seeing it for the first time since leaving we left as a family back in 1980
-- Getting to spend time with my young nephews and watching them grow up
--Witnessing a man of color elected as President of the United States of America and watch as the world rejoiced on Election Day in 2008
-- Getting to be a part of immediate and extended family celebrations
I mentioned wondering why God sent me that warning way ahead of time on Facebook two years ago, but hadn’t really stopped to ponder that question until this weekend . . . my friend's words echoed in my ears yesterday. The truth is, I really don’t know. I know people who worked on the same floor (the 97th floor) that I worked on that perished that day. I’m earnestly asking that question of the Lord this year. I believe that as I continue learning to trust Him beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it will be revealed in the fullness of His timing.