Where were you on September 11, 2001?
I’ll tell you where I was – the music suite at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. I had just dropped off my kids at school and made my way to the office. I was just about to call my brother, Bill, to wish him a happy birthday when my associate, Owen Griffin, burst through my office and said, “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center!”
Like millions of other people, we were glued to the TV coverage of the first plane crash, wondering what had happened, when the second one hit the other tower. Soon after, another plane hit the Pentagon, and then another crashed in Pennsylvania. It was clear to all that evil had been unleashed on our nation. The only question was how far it would go.
Our pastor, Kie Bowman, sent out a call to all the ministerial staff asking us to meet in his conference room for a time of prayer. We also had a guest with us that day, David Nasser, who was visiting our church to speak at a student event that night. It was surreal. None of us knew what to think.
It hit closer to home when we learned that because of our proximity to the capital of Texas (and the President’s home state), we were considered a potential target. Parents began to rush to school for their children. Friends from our church that worked in the White House were on all of our minds as we tried to imagine what they were dealing with that day.
I’ll never forget it.
As the days and weeks went by, the mantra “We will not forget!” began to weave into the fabric of the nation’s narrative. From bumper stickers on cars and trucks to signs painted on bed sheets hanging from windows in New York City, the tragic events seemed to be on everyone’s mind.
Just weeks before Sept. 11th, LifeWay had asked me to write a patriotic choral project with my friends, Luke Garrett and Chris Machen. As a matter of fact, we had already sketched out an outline of what we thought we would write – then 9.11 happened. That sketch was quickly thrown in the trash, and we started over with a new purpose.
The now familiar mantra, “We will not forget!” was burning in my mind as we started to develop a new concept for the project. There was one question that kept coming back to me: “Is the only thing we need to remember is that we’ve been attacked?” And that’s when the focus of the project began to take shape and the musical, “America, We Must Not Forget” was born.
We identified three things for America to always remember:
- Our great Christian heritage,
- Our noble and honorable heroes who fought and still fight for our freedom,
- The realization that our only hope for the future is Jesus Christ, and we must cry out to Him.
These were true in 2001, and they are still very much true today.
Once we found the three nails to hang the songs on, well, the songs wrote themselves. To this day, it was the most amazing experience, as a songwriter, I’ve ever had.
Now, 13 years later, it seems to me we are still facing many threats to our nation and our families. I still wonder how well our nation remembers those core truths. I hope it won’t take another tragic attack to cause us to tremble before our God again.
So, where were you? And where do you think we are now?
America, we must not forget!
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.