(From Part 2: “Hammett. Hammett.” Bile burned in my throat. Thunder rolled in the distance, or did the noise reverberate from the television? I raced into the living room and sank to my knees. “Oh, dear God, no!”)
The North Tower crumbled to the ground. Glass and metal hurled through the air. Frantic people scrambled in every direction only to have ash and soot swallow them. The TV screen became a gray-black blur. The camera shook as the crew darted for safety—their nervous voices lost in the melee.
Someone screamed, her shrill, loud voice filled the room and pierced my ears. Her tears flowed down my face into trembling hands. Pieces of priceless pottery sailed through the air, their broken shards less hysterical than she. I had to stop her before she lost complete control.
The wet carpet under my face became my first wake-up call. Too weak to push myself up, I laid there. Garbled voices from the television drifted toward me spewing words that ran together. A third plane crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania, its destination shy of its goal. A man wrung his hands and mumbled about the Pentagon but the information didn’t fully register.
I forced myself to read the words on the screen. “America Under Attack.” Voices narrated their impromptu speculation. Eyewitnesses reported chilling accounts. Some commented about children in a nearby preschool whose parents would never pick them up.
No one tried to explain why my husband had to die in the attack. Time lost its meaning. I don’t know how long I laid there while television commentators continued their analysis. Heat, humidity, and smoke wafted through my open windows. Damp hair stuck to my face.
A blinking red light caught my eye, and I thrust myself off the floor. Cell phone plans were expensive, and I’d only given my number to a few people. I racked my brain but couldn’t imagine who would’ve left a message.
Engaged in a dizzy dance, I staggered like a shipwrecked sailor into the bedroom and snatched the phone from the desk. Before I flopped on the bed, I grabbed a coverlet. Curled in a fetal ball, I clutched the phone. Spent nerves prevented me from listening to the message.
My mind replayed conversations Hammett shared when he’d headed the safety committee. He equipped the offices with fire extinguishers and carried out routine fire drills up and down the thirty-seven flights of stairs. No wonder he stayed in great physical shape. Hope flooded my thoughts.
I blew out a long sigh, pushed the button, and retrieved the only message.
“Hi, Mom, it’s Maddie. It’s about 8:37 on Tuesday morning, September 11. I don’t have to be to work at the hospital until noon today. These twenty-four-hour emergency room shifts are brutal, and I haven’t seen you guys as much as I’d like. I picked up some bagels and cream cheese at that deli you two always rave about. I’m gonna take them up to Dad’s office, and wondered if maybe you could join us.
“By the way, I got bored at work Sunday and weighed myself. Big mistake. So, before I eat these bagels, thought I’d take the stairs up to Dad’s office. If it doesn’t kill me, maybe I’ll lose five pounds by the time I get there.
“Okay, I’m about to enter the stairwell so I might lose reception but I’ll count off the steps for as long as I can. Ready? “Two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen . . .”
People often ask why I’ve left this story unfinished. Well, let me ask you – if this were your story, your life, how would it end?
Claire had no idea how radically her life would change on September 11, 2001. She and Hammett seemingly had it all: the penthouse, the money, the future . . . or so they thought. Though they’d planned for their financial goals to the last penny, they’d neglected their eternal destination. Maybe more time would’ve helped, but it’s the one commodity none of us can buy.
Unlike the fictional characters in my story who had to comply with how they’re written, people have free will. We choose where we will spend eternity.
The Bible tells us that God sent His Son Jesus into this fallen world to provide a way for us to go to Heaven. Since Jesus lived a perfect life, His death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins. You might think being a good person is good enough. Well, if that were true, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for your sins.
What’s sin? Sin means to break the law, go against a moral code, to miss the mark. If we’re honest, we’ve all missed the mark. When we ask Jesus Christ to forgive our sins, He comes and lives in our hearts. He makes us a new person. We trade our sin-filled life for a new one . . . that’s what “born again” is all about.
We’re all given the opportunity to choose to live for Jesus. Our choice makes the difference between the hope of Heaven or the horror of hell.
We all remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001—the images we saw, the news accounts we heard, the stories we read. Maybe you had a relative, close friend, or an acquaintance who died in that horrible attack.
Ready or not, the day will come when we, too, breathe our last breath.
Like the characters in this story, perhaps you’ve succeeded in achieving your financial goals.
None of that will matter if you haven’t chosen Jesus and secured your eternal destination.
To do that, simply ask Jesus into your heart today. Read His Word, the Bible, and let Him lead you home.
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This is an original story written by eMarie.
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