Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
Timothy Crane Allen is a man of faith and integrity who takes tremendous pride in his work and his family. Tim, 38, was born in Ridgecrest, California, and today lives in Redlands, California, with his wife, Laurie, and their son, Zachary, 5. For nearly 9 years, Tim worked as a journalist, mostly in the area of sports. In 2000, he won the Hoosier State Press Association Award for Best Sports Columnist and second place in the best columnist category from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2002, he resigned from the Indiana newspaper where he had worked for several years to take a teaching position in his native state. He now teaches digital imaging and graphics at La Sierra High School in Riverside, California.Tim’s interests include computer games, sports, Christian novels, and action/adventure/sci-fi movies. He is Southern Baptist.
When the Sept. 11 tragedy started to unfold, Tim was asleep. “I think the most frightening thing about waking up the morning of Sept. 11 was the sound in my wife’s voice. After 10 years of marriage, there was a tinge in her voice that I had never heard – not sorrow, joy, anger or despair. It was a sound that moments later echoed in my head and my heart as I watched the planes slam headlong into the twin towers over and over again. I was called into the newsroom of The Herald Bulletin newspaper (Anderson, Ind.) just hours after the attacks. I was placed in the unique position of bureau chief for the entire cnhi media chain, dispersing photos and stories to some 100 papers around the midwestern and eastern portions of the country. It was surreal to see all of the photos being rushed across the Associated Press wire. Perhaps the most shocking were the dozens of newspaper fronts from papers around the country and around the world, all giving their spin on the horrific event. But I also remember taking some solace in what I saw happen in our newsroom that day. I saw a group of people who typically work well together become something extraordinary in the face of covering THE biggest news story of our lifetime. It was a small reflection of the hundreds of rescue personnel who rushed into the burning towers, and the countless policemen and medical personnel who immediately sprang into action. It was a small microcosm of America doing what it does best – rising to the occasion.” Tim wrote his submission July 1, 2002.
I was fast asleep the day of the attacks. And a gentle nudge from my wife brought me back from a peaceful slumber to a world that will never be the same.
I had “survived” the riots in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial, and had been on watch in a newsroom when the newsflash came in about the Oklahoma City bombing. And while both were huge stories here in the states, my news-sense told me that they were but blips on the international radar.
But from the moment I realized that the disasters of Sept. 11 were no accident, I knew the rules by which America had been playing politically were yesterday’s news.
I could only watch as NBC’s Matt Lauer commentated over the replay of the second jet slamming into the second tower. It appeared from the right, disappeared momentarily behind the smoking target of the initial airliner, and slammed headlong into its twin. I watched it over and over on other news stations as well, all the while trying to recover from the sense of numbness that had washed over me.
Just when I thought I had a handle on things, reports of a third crash at the Pentagon came in. And then a fourth jet, somewhere near Pennsylvania, was either heading back toward Washington D.C. or had crashed into a field.
I knew that then that as Americans, we had been asleep at the wheel. As a nation, we’d paid lip service to countries like Israel and Kuwait, telling them to just hang in there and that things would eventually get better. We told them it was their war, not ours. How wrong we were.
These are times that I am sure my father would not have been able to handle; it seems like a kind gesture by God that he took my dad home in April of 2001. But I still have someone else to look over and wonder how this has affected his view – my son.
As time passed, moments came that helped my family and I restore our faith in this country, its people and our ability to defend ourselves. But none reaffirmed my own sense of security more than a drive with my son through the Indiana countryside one crisp November morning.
My wife and I weren’t too sure just how much the events of Sept. 11 had affected Zachary, but I quickly found out. While heading for a local lumberyard, I caught my 4-year-old praying in his car seat next to me – unprovoked with his head bowed, eyes closed and hands gently folded in his lap. I stole glimpses of him while watching the road, and when we hit a stoplight, he opened his eyes and looked at me with a grin on his face.
“What were you doing there son?” I queried.
“Praying,” he responded.
“Two things,” he said. “I was praying for all of those people that died in those buildings that blowed up, and all of the firemen that went in there and got killed.”
My heart swelled with emotion, pride beaming from my eyes as a large smile washed over my face. “That’s a very good thing, Zachary. And, what was the second thing you were praying for?”
“That you and mommy would have a baby brother.”
As the light changed and I pulled away, it was as if God spoke to me and said, “See, everything will be just fine.”
As I’ve thought about my son’s prayer and his response to the Sept. 11 attacks in recent months, I’ve come to conclude that God is in control of it all. That while we may not see the immediate benefit of the horrific assaults against our nation that day, God knows that they will work a greater good in the long run.
It seems to me as with many problems of the past, we have brought these new issues somewhat upon ourselves. We allowed these terrorists to roam free in our land, but only because we want to believe the best in everyone – regardless of skin color or national origin. But if we deny anyone any measure of these freedoms, then our 226-year experiment in democracy has failed.
I believe that we, as a nation, must determine our priorities. Liberty is a great thing, assuming you’re around to enjoy it. So we may have to allow government agencies to share information in order to catch terrorists and criminals. We may have to go through a few extra checks to get licenses for cars and guns. And we may have to spend a few more hours at the airport in order to prevent more hijackings.
And so it lies with each of us to be more informed, more aware and forever more vigilant. While some are scared or scoff at the idea, it is every citizen’s responsibility to get more involved, watch out for their neighbor and to make sure that our government of the people, by the people and for the people never perishes from the earth.