In some respects, it is fair to say that our innocence was destroyed on 9/11, as surely as were the twin towers on lower Manhattan. I pray that we will never forget those attacks or the thousands of innocent people who lost their lives because of that horrendous act.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called another tragic and pivotal event in American history – the Pearl Harbor attacks – “a date that will live in infamy.” I could certainly make the argument that 9/11 is a date that has even more infamy. It is impossible to describe how our nation has changed after 9/11. Though America survived and freedom still reigns, everything is different.
The attack images are indelibly imprinted on our memories, and it is fitting today to relive that horror:
The terrorist strikes created an inferno of the World Trade Center Towers. They collapsed, raining terror onto the thousands of people who live and work in that area. The disintegration of those buildings brought blind chaos to New York and destroyed the innocence of all America.
As we move on, we have to learn from the horror and evil of that day.
How, then, do we live – with daily terror alerts as a reminder that evil still lurks?
There is a relevant passage from the Old Testament book of Haggai. Haggai 1:2-6 describes God speaking to the people about rebuilding the temple. He tells them that it is time! I believe that Haggai has a contemporary message for us on this day.
If Haggai were here today, I believe that he would warn that our Judeo-Christian values, beliefs and priorities are under attack from many different directions. He would tell us to build an impermeable boundary around those values and he would say that our foundation had better be very solid and strong enough to withstand attack. Otherwise, forces of destruction will penetrate through our walls of protection and destroy everything that we hold dear.
I did not know until I visited Ground Zero that deep in the pit there is a “slurry wall” – a gigantic bathtub-like structure that is more than 3 thousand feet around. This bathtub, though, wasn’t designed to hold water in; this structure was designed to keep water out.
Specifically, it was designed to keep the Hudson River out.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center were constructed on the lower end of Manhattan Island where the Hudson River forms the border on the West side. That location poses some almost insurmountable problems. The mean rate of tidal flow (incoming from the ocean twice a day) at Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan is 425,000 cubic feet per second. That much water weighs over 25.5 million pounds! The incoming tide raises the water level around five feet.
Imagine trying to build a foundation to shore up two 110-story towers in that geographical spot with those kinds of pressures exerting that much force! Yet, even though the World Trade Center towers above it collapsed, the 30-year-old slurry wall held firm against all that pressure!
The attacks of 9/11 stretched some places in the wall; some places leaked, some places leaned ominously, some places cracked, but the wall still stands.
George Tamaro, an engineer who specializes in underground structures, built the structure in the late 1960s. Tamaro’s creation is a steel-reinforced concrete wall seven stories deep and three feet thick. The wall is anchored to bedrock at literally hundreds of places, and each anchor is able to withstand 300 tons of pressure. Tamaro is called the “voice of engineering reality.”
Engineering must be based on reality. Following personal whims and preferences is not a good idea. Transient styles or fads don’t make a solid foundation. The World Trade Center towers were grounded solidly on reality – thanks to George Tamaro.
Daniel Liberskind, the designer of the planned trade center redevelopment project, described the slurry wall as “anchored on bedrock foundation” and called it “hallowed, sacred ground.”
He said, “The foundations withstood the unimaginable trauma of the destruction and stand as eloquent as the Constitution itself, asserting the durability of democracy and the value of individual life.”
As the designer and the engineer work together to ensure the safety of the thousands of tourists who will visit the redevelopment project, Tamaro is the one who determines what is possible. Liberskind’s “style” as a designer has to fit within Tamaro’s parameters – the technical aspects and realities dictate the design for the wall.
The slurry wall is standing today because it was built right – it was built to withstand incredible force, and it did.
What is the lesson for us today?
We don’t have the freedom to build our lives – or our nation – any way we want. If our lives and our country are to be strong enough to withstand the pressures that will inevitably come, we can’t follow every current fad and contemporary trend. We must understand the pressures that we face and grasp the realities of what it will take to endure them without being destroyed.
Almighty God – who inspired the Holy Scriptures and created everything, including us – knows the personal and national realities that we will face far better than we. He put in place the means of protection. He provides the bedrock foundation, and in the Bible He provides the anchors that we can embed in that solid rock. It is up to us to put those anchors solidly in place and build the slurry walls – including strong steel reinforcements – around those things that are most precious.
As a nation, we have too long ignored the solid moral foundations that are the strength of democracy. Can persons or nations continue to flourish when they flaunt their disregard for basic morality and hold disdain for the 10 Commandments as guiding principles for community life and personal conduct?