How 9/11 Saved My Dad
After hours of being glued to the television on that fateful day, as multitudes of others had been, I tore myself away from those horrific images and walked outside. Everyone at work was either crying or silent with shock. My nerves were raw, my heart was pounding, and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I had to have a cigarette.
The staggering heat enveloped me like a wet blanket as I stepped out the door and lit up, but I barely noticed. My mind was too full of thoughts and emotions clouding my head, and the one that kept coming to the surface the most was my dad. I knew it was time.
For the past fifteen years I had been praying for my dad to come to know the Lord. My father was the quintessential atheist who grew up in the turbulent sixties, and viewed faith in anything other than one’s own mind as fruitless and weak. He viewed my salvation as a minor eccentricity, a by-product of my move to backwards Arkansas. One of his favorite responses to me when I broached the subject of faith was that the muggy weather must have warped my brain. I endured his teasing and annoyance in my faith because in my heart I hoped that one day, he would accept Christ.
Many sleepless nights had been spent already by me, as well as my step-mom Cindy, asking the Lord to open his eyes and to let the guard down that surrounded his heart. Our prayers were focused on placing someone in Dad’s life that he would be willing to listen to the truth from. Our discussions with him about salvation over the past years had dwindled to small blurbs, which usually ended with the speaker being ridiculed.
Cindy, however, had been feeling that Dad was starting to get closer, for he was beginning to take interest, albeit fleeting, in her faith. A small question here and there, an interested glance there were the subtle hints that he was becoming less defiant. Less than a month prior to 9/11, we talked about this on the phone, and prayed, asking the Lord to open his heart, and to give us the words to say when the time came.
And now the time had come.
As I stood in the parking lot staring into the blue sky, the enormity of what was going on hit me. I was overcome with the realization that thousands of people had just died horrendous deaths. Life ended in an instant, and at that moment, I knew I had a trip to make. I was heading to Seattle.
I sat down on the picnic table under a pine tree and flipped open my cell phone. With shaking fingers, I dialed Cindy. She answered on the first ring, and before I could even say hello, Cindy said, “It is time.” I wept, because I felt that too, and because I felt the Spirit move deep within my soul. The sweat that was now pouring off me was not from the staggering heat, but rather, from the tremendous weight that I felt settle on my shoulders: I was to be the one that the Lord used. The daughter was now to become the teacher.
After much prayer and planning, four months later I was in Seattle. After driving from Arkansas I was exhausted and road weary, but on an emotional high as well. The blood in my veins was flowing in a way that I had never felt before, almost like an electrical current. All my senses were on full alert. After the preliminary hugs, kisses and unpacking was over, Cindy seemed to instinctively know to retire to bed and leave Dad and me alone. We each grabbed a cup of coffee and headed outside to sit in the cool evening breeze while we visited. I said a silent prayer for strength and guidance as I sat down on the concrete bench. As I did, I felt the strangest sensation of peace come over me, of which I had only felt one other time in my life, which was the day I accepted Jesus into my own heart. The electrical surges in my body were gone, along with the nervous heat that had been building up, replaced with a feeling of total control.
I had my speech well rehearsed. I knew exactly what I was going to say, and was surprised that when I opened my mouth and heard my words, it was as if I was hearing someone else speak. These weren’t my words! Why did I just say that? This isn’t what I planned on saying! The words just started pouring out of me, and for the next three hours, I spoke while my Dad sat and listened. To this day, I can’t recall exactly what I said. The words just came, and I know that God used me to speak directly to my earthly father, for when I was finished, my father knelt down on the hard wooden deck and prayed, asking Jesus to forgive him of his sins and come into his heart. It was the greatest privilege I have ever experienced in my life. I felt humbled and blessed that the Lord had used me to reach another soul for His kingdom, and now I was able to share with my father something that I never could before: eternal life.
The next morning, Dad left for work before I woke up. I was exhausted both emotionally and physically, and slept longer than I should have. But the smell of Starbucks lured me out of my sleep, and I shuffled to the kitchen. Cindy was sitting at the table, literally beaming from ear to ear. And she said nine little words that will always stay with me:
“You answered every single question that he ever had.” Words on paper will never be able to aptly express the tremendous sense of joy, awe, inspiration and just plain thankfulness that I felt, and still do to this day.
As the tears slowly rolled down her face, I felt my own hot tears drip onto my hands. Our tears were those of happiness, for the events of the night before were still fresh in our hearts. We were going to spend eternity with him!
I, as every other citizen in this country, will never forget the images from 9/11. It changed me, our nation, and the world, in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. Each person has a story to tell about how their lives were forever altered as our country was blindsided by terrorists. As for me, it was the catalyst that spurned me on to drive halfway across the country to share the Lord with my father, face to face and heart to heart. And from the ashes of despair arose something more beautiful than I ever thought possible, my father’s salvation.
I want to Thank Ashley for contributing such a beautiful story.