Saturday Stuff

Where’s Tom?

I stood frozen in front of the flickering images on my TV.

I quickly squeezed my eyes shut, effectively blocking the image from my eyes, but not my brain.

I must be dreaming.

I opened my eyes …

The nightmare was still smoldering. I dropped to my sofa and stared. Tears began tickling the corners of my lids – I did not try to stop them.

“Do you know where Tom is?” my sister said. She looked at her cell phone. “I can’t get a hold of him.”

I gasped.

“What?”

My sister didn’t hear the newscaster.

I knew where Tom was.

I looked back at the TV – the buildings continued to burn.

*************************

Write up to 100 words, fact or fiction….

This is a themed writing meme hosted by Jenny Matlock. The goal is to write something that does not exceed 100 words (not including said prompt). The prompt appears in bold.

Abundant Life

Where Were You on September 11, 2001? Where Was God?

Nine years ago … can you believe it’s been nine years since our country was attacked?

Where were you? Do you remember?

I was on a shuttle bus, on my way to campus for class. The bus got quiet as the news was broadcast over the radio. I remember walking onto campus and heading to my class in the Public Affairs building. It was eerie – people were shocked and walking around like zombies.

It was deathly quiet.

I joined the crowd of people huddled around the TV’s in the lobby just in time to watch the second plane hit. It was surreal and many, including myself, openly cried at the sheer horror of watching people jump to their deaths to escape from being burned to death. I have no idea what happened after I witnessed the second plane. I must have gone through the motions of going to class and then driving home because the next thing I remember is being home and talking to Kevin on the phone.

The boys were allowed to watch a little of the disaster on TV at school. I remember we had some pretty interesting discussions about what happened when they got home.

I’ve heard many, many, MANY people ask “Where was God on September 11.” I’ve also heard many people blame God for what happened. God is NOT to blame. Our God is love, and “in Him is no darkness.” It’s important to understand that when bad things happen, like 9/11, it’s not God’s fault. Let’s not forget who rules this world – Satan. Let’s put the blame where it belongs.

Because I’m a Christian and it truly bothers me whenever I hear people blame God whenever something bad happens, or somehow thinks it’s God’s will to allow things like this to happen, I’d like to post this article from the Truth or Tradition website. If you’re confused, angry, or scared about the negative things that happen in your life and you feel like God has let you down, perhaps reading this will bless you.

Where was God on 9/11?

How sad that such questions will continue to remain unanswered because most people in the world lack true knowledge about the Word of God. Rather than let Him speak for Himself by reading and properly understanding the Bible, far too many well-meaning people, Christians included, will venture their own groundless opinions about the critical issue of God’s relationship to evil. Even sincere and loving Christian leaders, called upon for some spiritual explanation by those still grieving, can say only what they have been taught, and the traditional responses to which they are shackled will bring little comfort.

Some will mention “evil,” but fail to mention the Devil (Hey—just add a “D”). Thankfully, some Christian leaders will tell the truth that it was Satan who is ultimately responsible for this unspeakable evil, but the majority of dear people asking questions will be left with the false idea that God allowed it to happen as part of His overall will. It is very hard to see how that idea will enhance either their love for or their faith in our heavenly Father. In fact, it will no doubt turn many away from His outstretched heart, wherein lies their only hope for truth, which is the only basis for genuine comfort, strength, and hope.

Americans inundated by postmodernism’s “truth” that “there is no such thing as truth” are stuck between a rock – “no standard for right and wrong beyond the mind of man” – and a hard place – their visceral knowing that what happened on September 11 was wrong. What standard can we use to evaluate Osama Bin Laden’s assertion, which he bases upon the words of the Koran, his source of “truth,” that what happened was the will of Allah? We can, and must, use the God-breathed revelation from the Creator of life. And what is the chief difference between the Bible and every other document purported to be the Word of God? The rock, Jesus Christ, who went through a hard place, the world.

Where was God on September 11, 2001? His answer to that question, taken from His own Word, is: “I was right there looking on in great pain, and unable to stop those planes from crashing into those buildings.” Yes, we have by now heard countless stories of how He worked in a myriad of ways to keep people away from the Twin Towers that day, and to save as many as He could who were there, but He could not stop those planes from hitting the Towers.

You may be thinking, “What? He’s God! He can do anything He wants to do.” If so, you are contradicting what He says in the Bible. No doubt those who believe that well worn lie do so because of misguided Christian teachers who continue to propound the fallacy that “God is in control,” and that whatever happens is somehow in line with His will. Apparently Jesus did not understand that, however, because he encouraged us to pray that “the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Why should we pray that if everything that happens is God’s will? Good question.

How do we know that God could not stop those planes? Because He did not. The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), which means it is impossible for Him to do anything that is not loving. Is it loving to “allow” (that is, be able to stop something from happening but choose not to) thousands of innocent people to be killed? No. Okay, then we know that God didn’t allow it, and since He sure didn’t cause it, that means He couldn’t stop it.

That certainly brings up the question: Why couldn’t He stop it? And the biblical answer is: He did not have enough human cooperation. Hey, did God stop Goliath? Did He stop the 850 prophets of Baal? Did He stop a number of Old Testament armies bent on destroying Israel? Totally–because David, Elijah, and other people stepped up and did their part. And will God one day stop the Devil, as in crush his ugly head? Absolutely. Why? Because Jesus Christ stepped up like no other man and perfectly cooperated with God, all the way to the Cross.

Jesus Christ is the subject of Scripture from Genesis 3:15 to the last page of the book of Revelation, and what the Bible says about him is either true or false. Scripture, history and the human experience of those who trust him combine to prove that he is the crux of history and the linchpin of life. Those who follow him must proclaim that the written Word of God found in the Bible is the only source of truth because it is the only book showing who Jesus Christ is and why he is man’s only Savior from sin and death.

Scripture says that Jesus Christ is also the only valid “image of the invisible God.” As such, it is he who most vividly shows us God’s heart. Jesus Christ is the key to our understanding that God is not in control of everything that happens; that God’s will does not always happen; that God never causes or “allows” evil; that God gave free will to all men; that God weeps with us in our trauma and sorrow; and that He is there to comfort us.

What happened September 11 should make clear to all men that we live in a perpetual war zone. September 11 was a manifestation of the spiritual war raging between God and the Devil, and that war, fought on the earth between godly people and evil people, will go on until Jesus Christ comes back to the earth and wins it! Remember that it was his love for people that cost Jesus his life, because the Devil’s total hate could not coexist with such pure love.

What you have read so far may have raised many questions in your mind. Great! Because the Word of God has the answers. Here are some links for you to pursue your quest for truth and spiritual understanding. Enjoy.

God bless you and be safe.

General

Counselor Without Portfolio – A Tribute to Michael J. Armstrong

Four years ago, my friend, DC Roe, sent out a request to the blog-o-sphere. He wanted to know if people would be interested in writing tributes honoring the victims of 9/11.

To his great surprise, an overwhelming number of people said yes. Project 2,996 was born.

From the Project 2,996 website:

On September 11, 2001 almost 3,000 of the world’s citizens were brutally, and publicly, murdered. We all cried, and we all swore that we’d never forget. But a few years later I realized that I knew nothing about those people who were doing nothing more than living their lives. In 2006 I asked other bloggers if they thought it would be a good idea to take the time to learn about the victims and try to keep their individual memories alive. The response I got was overwhelming. And Project 2,996 is the result.

Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, whatever you may think of what has happened in the years since 9/11, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to learn about just one victim.

I too wrote a tribute to one of the fallen, but I published it on my old self-hosted blog, which is now defunct. I’d like to re-post the tribute here in the hopes that it permanently stays on the Internet for all to read and remember.

REMEMBER 9/11 – DO NOT EVER FORGET


Nine years ago today, America was attacked.

At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, the first plane smashed into the North World Trade Center Tower – lives were snuffed out, the world went dark for many. Cantor Fitzgerald, a global financial services provider company, located on floors 101 – 105th, was destroyed: 658 out of 1,000 employees were never seen again.

One of those employees was Mr. Michael J. Armstrong, age 34.

Michael J. Armstrong had an uncanny way of looking people deep in the eyes and telling them things that stuck with them, that sometimes changed their lives.

There was the confused, rambling Grateful Dead fan he met on a train in 1993, who was hooked on drugs and on the run from his parents.

The young man wrote Mr. Armstrong a letter shortly after their meeting that Mr. Armstrong’s family found in a drawer when they cleaned out his Upper East Side apartment after Sept. 11.

“After talking to you,” the young man wrote, “I’ve worked everything out with my parents and will be returning to work for them and continuing a drug-free life. I have positive goals but I almost threw them away. I just want to thank you for helping me.”

There was the man from the Upper East Side who served time in prison. When he got out, he was shunned by most people; Mr. Armstrong went out of his way to talk to him, to make him feel welcome.

“Since Sept. 11, we’ve realized what a great impact he’s had on people’s lives,” said Catherine M. Nolan, whom Mr. Armstrong, 34, a vice president of sales at Cantor Fitzgerald, was to marry on Oct. 6.

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on February 3, 2002.

Armstrong was vice president of sales for Cantor Fitzgerald. He was busy doing his job, minding his own business working on one of the 101 – 105th Cantor Fitzgerald floors of the north tower. Cantor Fitzgerald was directly hit when the plane crashed through. Cantor Fitzgerald was one of the first companies to be completely destroyed.

From the Cantor Fitzgerald tribute website:

On the morning of September 11th, we lost more than a team. We lost family. We mourn the losses of our siblings, our best friends, and our partners. We cannot imagine work or life without them nor their many unique qualities and characteristics. They have enriched our lives immeasurably, and in us, their spirits shall live on.

Cantor Fitzgerald’s former New York office, on the 101st-105th floors of One World Trade Center, lost 658 employees, or about two-thirds of its workforce, in the September 11, 2001 attacks, considerably more than any other company.

Armstrong’s life was just beginning. He was engaged to be married to Catherine. His life ended prematurely at 8:46 a.m., September 11, 2001.

From Michael Armstrong’s website:

Michael J. Armstrong’s Biography
(August 31, 1967–September 11, 2001)

He was hungry early on. Somewhere on a home-movie reel from 1969 a chubby-legged toddler still waddles about wearing an oversized bib, a small foreshadowing of an insatiable appetite that would not be satisfied by food alone. Ten years later he had become the master of restraint, often making a chocolate bar last a whole week. With Mike, the things he loved in life were always savored. A native New Yorker, he loved his city with a passion. He loved people. He loved good food. He loved sharing good food. He loved a long talk that would carry into the early hours of the next day. He loved defending an underdog. He loved a good dig. He loved a good comeback. He loved a big crowd. He loved sports. He loved the excitement that hangs in the air before a big game. He loved loyalty. He loved the loyalty of a good friend. He loved. He loved as well as anyone can love.

Circumstances did not beckon him to find himself until the end of his sophomore year at Xavier High School in lower Manhattan, a school his older brother had graduated from two years before. Mike was not happy there, and his poor grades reflected it. In the spring he was asked to find another school, and in the fall, a season that usually brings about wilting, he began to flourish. He started his junior year at Loyola High School, a small school in the heart of Yorkville. Loyola was halfway through administering a high school education to many of Mike’s elementary school friends. The prodigal son had come home, home to a school that would have welcomed him with a partial scholarship two years before but was now understandably tentative about taking a risk on a kid who no longer showed much promise on paper. He put his best foot forward, however, and it didn’t take him long to show everyone that he was well worth the effort. While never a straight-A student, he did well at Loyola. He cared, not merely about the difference he could make for himself but the difference he could make for others. His quintessential talents lay far deeper than getting respectable grades. His true gifts, the ones that flowed from him so effortlessly, were much more far reaching. He was wonderful with people. He was a natural public servant, and his classmates soon saw it. At the end of his junior year, his first year at Loyola, he was elected president of the student body. And so began a love affair that would see him well in to adulthood. He worked tirelessly for Loyola for the next seventeen years of his life. Always eager to see old friends and make new ones, he would be at Loyola fundraisers with bells on.

After graduating from Loyola, he attended Syracuse University in upstate New York, but again the fit wasn’t right. After a year, he came back to his beloved New York City, but not without having cemented several more lifelong friendships at Syracuse, for embracing people from all walks of life always came naturally. It was on to Fordham University in the Bronx, and again, a perfect match. While at Fordham, he acquired the nickname Posse, or Poss for short. While rumors abound regarding the origin of the name, most seem to believe it is derived from the popular slang word for group, which, since he always had large numbers with him, seems to be a legitimate theory. Again, the friendships made at Fordham were of soul-piercing quality. Many of them got stronger after graduation. New ones were born at alumni events. As a fellow Fordham alumnus twenty years Mike’s senior put it best, “I knew we would be friends for the rest of our lives. We were suffering from the same disease. We both loved Fordham.” With Mike, there were no boundaries when it came to forging a new alliance—not age, not race, not religion. A superb judge of character, he had a way of cutting straight through to the essence of what really mattered in an individual. Having been the recipient of second chances himself, he was quick to give someone the benefit of the doubt. He knew what it was like to stumble, yet he repeatedly found his way. He was eager to see others do the same. He was wonderfully human.

His sweet disposition and hardworking nature paved the way for many progressions throughout his eleven years in the working world. He left his first job as a credit analyst with the factoring firm Milberg Factors in August 1992 to join the Office of Management and Budget for the City of New York, where he worked as a budget analyst for over four years under David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani while he put himself through graduate school at night. His newly acquired master’s degree and his appetite for the financial world led him to his role as director of investor relations at The Bond Buyer, a publication for the municipal bond industry, before he joined Cantor Fitzgerald in 1999. He became a vice president of electronic trading at Cantor, where his love and admiration for his colleagues ran deep.

The past, and Mike, is forever a part of us. Somewhere on a home-movie reel from 1969 a toddler still walks. Only now, when we view him, we know how steady and sure those steps became. We know what paths those feet took. We know the difference he made to all of us.

Michael J. Armstrong is survived by his fiancée, his family, and innumerable friends.

One of the few people in this world who would give the shirt off of his back for anyone. Loved by many. We miss him. Andrew Lindner, friend

Mr. Armstrong, we will never forget you.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 11, 2011: Project 2,996 has a Facebook page.