Without a doubt, the aerial attack on the Twin Towers in
Manhattan on September 11, 2001, was one of the most impactful
and far-reaching tragedies in modern times.
The ineffable visual of charcoal billows emanating from gaping apertures
in the slim steel skyscrapers still haunts millions of psyches a decade later. The thousands of innocent dead and the
residual trauma their deaths visited upon relatives, friends, and the wider
nation and world are immeasurable. Also
incalculable are the casualties of the warfare, hostilities, panic, depression,
terror and stresses that all congregated to form a nightmarish sequelae to the
dark morning of 9/11.
In the United States, Americans’ immediate reactions to the attacks
were varied. Many wept. Many despaired. Many fretted. Many were paralyzed. Some doubted. Some gawked. Some rejoiced. Some hid.
The reactions among Seventh-day Adventists in the United
States undoubtedly mirrored those of their fellow citizens, but with an
important twist. Adventists experienced the
pain and distress from loss of human lives and the extensive mayhem that the
attacks wrought, but saw more: the spiritual ramifications of such unbridled
malevolence. Specifically, 9/11 was an
omen of the end of the world, a day that ushered in almost universal terror,
incessant warfare, economic turmoil and fractious hatred.
But a group of young people from a small college in
Huntsville, Alabama, truly reflected the spirit of Adventism in their response
to 9/11. No sooner had the commandeered planes
connected to the steel and glass of One World Trade Center than Dr. Anthony
Paul and a dozen students from a group called the National Association for the
Prevention of Starvation (NAPS) at Oakwood University filed into cars and drove
24 hours non-stop to New York City with no other plan than to be there and do
whatever they could for those suffering.
Upon NAPS's arrival, after miraculously being allowed in to the cordoned-off
perimeters marking the devastation, the Oakwoodites marched, played music, hugged, and
prayed for the disconsolate amid the unspeakable backdrop of smoke and rubble
and death. Quietly, humbly, but with
dignity and courage, the youth of NAPS showed a world in unspeakable pain not
only what Adventism was really about, but what the heart of Jesus was really about.
As time progresses and calamity and devastation mount--which
they inevitably will--Seventh-day Adventists are in a prime position to be
frontrunners in alleviating and ministering to the precious people ravaged by
nature and humanity's caprice.
Adventists are in such a position simply because of the good news they have been mercifully entrusted with of a Savior who loves and cares, a Savior who is right now laying
the careful foundation for a glorious and final termination of suffering,
destruction, misery and death. It is
this realization that spurs God’s people to help with hope, to assist with
assurance, to minister with a message.