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September 11, 2001 – the world stopped in disbelief of the horrific attack on America. It was a day that three thousand innocent people lost their lives due to an unimaginable and senseless terrorist act on the Twin Towers. And we will always remember the fearless words, “Let’s roll”, from a Flight 93 passenger. The United States has not seen that kind of destruction of human life since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Yet countless stories are told about the heroic efforts of many that day. Hundreds of first responders climbed the stairs of the two giant skyscrapers, determined to save lives. Their hearts told them; it’s the right thing to do.  Many of those brave souls died.

The nightmare of 9-11 changed the way we live – permanently.

Changes in air travel regulations annoy me and most people I know, but they’re here to stay! Now we must endure electronic scanners, body checks, random luggage checks, limitations of what can carry on the plane, and no more waiting for our loved ones at the gate.

The rug was pulled out from under me that day as well. As you may know, I was involved in a serious go-kart racing accident that had left me paralyzed from the waist down. At the time, I was an inpatient at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM). It was my last week at RIM. 9-11 occurred on Tuesday of that week. I realized that 9-11 was a very serious event, but from my hospital room I had no idea of the real impact on our country.

One of my goals was to attend the Notre Dame/Purdue football game in Lafayette, Indiana on Saturday, September 15. I eagerly awaited my discharged on Friday. After all, I had worked very hard, so I’d be physically able to go to the game.

On Wednesday of that week my wife told me the game was canceled.  To be honest with you, I cried.  My strenuous rehab efforts didn’t seem to matter at that moment. The disappointment was almost more than I could tolerate.  How was I going to handle this change? At that moment I had a choice.  I could fight the decision or I could turn to God for help.

What matters most in times of great tragedy, crushing disappointments, and seemingly insurmountable challenges, is – God. There is always hope in him.  America was able to recover because we all knew that God would be with us.  He was there for us then and he will be there for us in the future.  We just need to ask him for guidance, wisdom, perseverance, acceptance, and most of all – courage to press on. His grace will be enough to see us through big and small trials – and mountains to climb. Then we can embrace change and move forward with peace and confidence.

Change is constant.  It’s going to happen whether we want it or not.  The real question is how do we handle the changes in life? There are many answers to that question, but the most important answer is to turn our grieving hearts to God.

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I believe that’s what America did fourteen years ago today. And I pray that’s what we will do today in memory of those who died and the people who still suffer the loss of people they loved.