Around Town: Susan Van Volkenburg A 9/11 Story September 9, 2016 11:09 AM By J.D. Ryan

You just sit and try to understand. But some things cannot be understood. Some paths are just too dark to see the other side, and once you have turned down the path there’s no going back. It’s dark and no one can take the journey for you. There is nothing but forward, though you do it with trembling and uncertainty. This journey is not of my choosing, but it is mine nonetheless.

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2016/09/09/around-town-susan-van-volkenburg-a-911-story/ 

Here is my story as shared by J. D. Ryan on CBS Radio KRLD 1080AM.

 

 

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Through the Fire

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israelite in Jerusalem and the army of Assyria is encamped against your walls. All the nations around you have fallen. Jerusalem is the last city standing, your city, Zion, which God had promised to protect.

Isaiah 49:14 speaks of the people’s reaction:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”

Forsaken by God. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. Even Jesus experienced this emotion when upon the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have felt forsaken.

Tuesday morning, a day like any other. It was a beautiful fall day: the air fresh, the sun warm, and the skies clear. As always the children and I began with Bible study. The day’s subject was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In discussing the three being placed into the fiery furnace for their unwavering faith in God, I made the cryptic statement that no matter what happens in our life, even when we go through the fiery furnace, still we must follow the Lord. I did not know that at that very moment my own life would be put through the furnace and my words tested.

Flag over PentagonThe day was September 11, 2001. My life forever changed as my father was ripped from the world by terrorists. In that moment I felt forsaken. All that I had believed in, trusted in, was stripped out from under me. How could a benevolent God, a God who loves me, allow such a tragedy to happen knowing full well how this would wound me?

But hear what God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands…

This is not just taking a pen and writing your name on His skin. You have been inscribed, that is, engraved. He has taken a blade and carved His palm, wounding His flesh so that forever He will bear the scars of your name upon His hands.

Not only does He know our name, but He bears our scars upon His flesh—forever.

I have journeyed down a dark and empty road: alone, abandoned, and forsaken. But I have found something along this desolate way: a beautiful truth. My foundation is sure…and I am not alone.

I think the key is in the word “through,” for we do go through, we do not stay in the furnace. There is an end to our trouble. For even as the three young men stood within the flames of the furnace, they were not alone, but a fourth stood beside them.

We all face trials. We have difficult times. God never promised us otherwise. In fact, He told us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But He did not leave us to travel this world without aid.

Listen what the Lord proclaims:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Isaiah 51:12)

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Though God’s protection is not always for our bodies, it is a constant for our souls. And in the end, it is our final home that is most important. This mortal coil, which we cling to so ardently, is not what it is all about. Yet when one that is loved is taken, we cannot help but look back at what has been lost.

“But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared— The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” (Isaiah 51:15-16)

We serve a powerful God. An all-knowing God. So what then can man do to me? For the keeper of my soul watches me. We do not have a God who looks on from the outside as we struggle along the way. But we have a God who enters with us into the midst of the fire. He walks the troubled path with us, taking us through to the other side. He is our God and we are His people, engraved upon his hand: a perpetual covenant between the Lord and His chosen.

So as you travel the journey of this earthly life, remember: you are not forsaken.

Susan Van VolkenburghSKU-000524494_COVER

SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN

 

Oncology Nurse turned homeschool educator, Susan Van Volkenburgh is an award winning author of Christian fiction and non-fiction books. After the death of her father on September 11, 2001, Susan began speaking of her experience. Her book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (A 9/11 story), recounts Susan’s loss and subsequent spiritual journey.

Born too late to experience antiquity first hand, Susan spends much of her time studying and teaching ancient history. Therefore, it seemed only natural that she should draw from the experience of grief and trauma to write THE STONE OF EBENEZER, Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga, a story of faith and restoration through the medium of Biblical fiction.

 

Forever Changed

      As summer closes, and the fresh scent of autumn brushes against the dawn, my thoughts are pulled back to a day the changed everything for me. This week marks the 14th anniversary of September 11. I am often asked to describe what happen to me that day, of how I found out that my family was so personally involved in that tragedy. It has been a long and difficult road, but one I freely share.  Here is the first chapter in the record of my journey. May we never forget.

book cover 1

Episode 1 – Forever Changed

It seemed a thousand years ago

and on the other side of the world.

                                    ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

 

How do I begin? How do I tell the tale of all that has happened? Ten years it has been, as I sit here trying to put down the thoughts and feelings that have occurred since that day. It seems insurmountable to place into words all that has transpired, yet I feel a need to try. So how do I begin?

It is a tale wrought with anguish and woe, and yet, as I look back, as I walked in the dark path of suffering, I see more clearly that it is also a tale that has always been a Pharos that shone upon the way, though I could not see it at the beginning. But it was there, always there summoning me, as a beacon of light piercing the darkness, calling out to me from around the bend. All I needed to do was take a few more steps, and then I would have seen it. That is how it often is when trials come. We are blinded by our sorrow and fear to all that is available to help us. And so it happened.

God let me down. It was a beautiful morning. The sun shone brightly. A faint breeze brushed through leaves painted with gold and red, whispering of autumn. The blush of day was still and silent, as though inhaling a breath and holding onto it, waiting to exhale. Suddenly, the sound of engines roaring broke through the air, growing ever louder. In an instant, no life would be the same; my life would never be the same.

The events of September 11, 2001, mark a change in my life. On that day, my precious father, Stanley R. Hall, was ripped from this world as American Airlines Flight 77 plummeted into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Numb and dazed, we walked those first months. FBI agents, memorial services, honors given, all a haze of lost senses.

How did we become entangled in this? How did my family get caught up in this conflict? I cannot answer these questions. All I know is that I am forever changed, marked by the wound of that day. I look back at pictures taken before September 11 and think, that was before, when we were innocent, before everything changed. I see myself as a different person than the woman in those photographs. Life is much more serious now. A shadow of mourning hovers over me each day. Living with grief is hard. The moment I realized my father was aboard the plane was like being slapped in the face for no reason. My breath escaped me. My chest constricted, crushing me with the weight of loss. For days, I was unable to swallow, except to swallow the grief.

That morning, I was ignorant of what was happening outside the walls of my bustling household. I was busy preparing for the day. Besides homeschooling my three children, I had just taken on the responsibility of running the children’s program at our church. I had planned to spend that beautiful September morning working at church, preparing the children’s church room. I was in the process of packing the car to make ready for the week’s activities, taking schoolwork for the kids, when the phone rang.

The phone rang. If only I had not picked it up, I could have stayed the sorrow that was to follow. But I did pick it up; ignorant of what lay before me with the words that would soon follow my cheerful hello.

“Where’s Daddy?” my brother asked, urgency in his voice.

Confusion swept over me. My brother was in Rochester, New York. Why was he calling me? My father lived in Virginia. How should I know where he was at that moment?

“Turn on the TV. Don’t you know the world’s coming to an end?” he cried.

He told me he had tried to call our mother, but all the lines were down in Virginia. He couldn’t get through to her.

I reached for the remote and turned on the TV. Horror filled my eyes as the news broadcast the planes flying into the World Trade Center. Then, as the nation let out a collective gasp, the towers collapsed. A cloud of dust and debris filled the city. All those people. Tears streamed from my eyes, yet I had no idea that our family would be pulled so personally into this tragedy. Then word came that the Pentagon had been struck. My father often worked in the Pentagon. My heart paused.

Through his company’s headquarters in Virginia, my husband was able to get through to my mother. She told us that my father was safe, for his plane to California had left earlier that morning. That was when fear began to take me. While I calculated events as the newscast pronounced them, I began to realize that the timing of the plane’s takeoff might mean that he was not safe. I held my breath.

Just as my mother was looking up my father’s flight itinerary, the newscast stated that Flight 77 had been the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. My husband repeated my mother’s words as I entered his office to tell him which flight it had been. I heard him say those words, words etched in my memory. “Flight 77.” I took in a breath. I wanted to scream. No. It couldn’t be. God would not let this happen to my father, he was always okay. He was the one who always took care of us. Nothing could happen to him. He would surely call and say, “Guess what happened to me on the way to the airport?”

My husband looked sorrowfully into my eyes and with a broken voice said, “I’m so sorry.” Horror struck, I returned his gaze. My mother hung on the phone. He must have told her that it was my father’s flight that crashed into the Pentagon, but I do not recall what followed. I stood aghast, unbelieving. Then I thought of my mother listening on the other end of the phone. What do I do?

I ran from the room. I did not want my mother to hear me sobbing. My first thought was that life was over. In an instant, the culmination of all my hopes and dreams came crashing down. There was no need to go on. Nothing would be the same. I did not care what happened to me. Death could take me. That would be all right. My heart was hollow, echoing of loss, each breath a struggle, each moment something to endure. What was the point of going on? All was lost. It was over.

Overcome, I collapsed on the floor. My two oldest children, then ten and six, ran over and wrapped their precious little arms around me, the remnant of him. Confused, they held their sobbing mother as I cried, “No, no, no” over and over again.

As I knelt there on the floor, cradling my body within my arms, I told myself, pull it together. You are carrying on for no reason. Daddy is going to call. We don’t even know for sure if he was aboard the plane. Stop crying and stand up. You are getting ahead of yourself. But what if it were true? What if he was dead? It was beyond my comprehension. After a time, I got up. I had to get control of myself. My little ones needed me.

I went to my husband and asked, “What do I do?”

He looked at me and said, “Pack your suitcase.”

Puzzled, I returned his gaze for a moment and then asked, “What do I put in a suitcase?”

I have spent my life traveling, packing many suitcases, but in that moment, I had forgotten. Numb, I turned and went upstairs. Previously, I had purchased a black dress. As of then, I had not had an occasion to wear it. I laid the dress upon the bed next to my suitcase. I refused to pack it. Black dresses were what you wore to funerals. The dress wouldn’t be needed; I knew my father would call. He just couldn’t get through. The phone lines were down. That was all. But the call never came.

My husband was finally able to contact the airlines. The representative confirmed that my father had checked in, but could not establish that he had actually boarded the plane. I knew he had. He would not have checked in and not boarded. Finally, I carefully placed my new black dress inside the suitcase and closed the lid. That was that. This is what it is.

All I could think was get to Mother. She was alone. We were in Texas; she was in Virginia. Never before had I felt so far away. My uncle lived in Maryland, my sister also; only an hour’s drive away from my mother’s house, but Washington, DC was shut down. The Beltway was closed. There was no easy way for anyone to get from Maryland to Virginia. She was all alone. All planes were grounded. There was nothing else to do but drive the long hours to Virginia.

I called my close friend to tell her what had happened and to let her know we were leaving town. Stunned, she asked if she could come over to be with me. I told her no. I was afraid that if she came to comfort me I would fall apart. I had to be strong. I had much to do, and I could not afford to break down. There would be time enough to grieve, but at that moment, I had to get to Virginia.

Hours slipped by. By late afternoon, it was reported that Al-Qaeda, a terrorist group of radical Muslims, claimed responsibility for the attacks. With this added knowledge, we began to prepare for the trip. We needed to get the car in good order. Anesthetized by shock, I dropped my husband off to run an errand, and then I took the car to get the oil changed. As the kids and I waited in the lobby, the news was on the TV, showing us over and over again the unfolding of terror. There was the Pentagon, its walls collapsed and burning. How could my father be in the midst of those flames? I looked away. The shop had a LEGO table set up, so I watched the kids build towers with the blocks as I held my eleven month old in my lap.

“Look, Mommy,” they called, “our planes are crashing into the buildings.”

A shock wave ran down my body. But I let them play, aware they were trying to make sense of the senseless, trying to come to terms with what their innocent eyes were forced to witness. Their lives would never be the same. They would have to live in this world, now so touched by hate.

In the stillness that followed September 11, the silent emptiness filled us with the stunned awe of disbelief. How could anyone do such a thing, such a terrible thing? How can we live in a world so full of hate?

So we drove, twenty-three hours stopping only for food and fuel. Twenty-three hours with three children, one of them a baby, cramped for what seemed like endless hours in the backseat. There was not a sound of complaint, not a whimper of discomfort as the hours stretched on through the night and into the opening of the next day. We kept the radio off, shutting our minds from the events that had occurred. The car was silent; the skies were dark, the hours rolled by. I sat stunned in my seat.

My aunt and uncle from Maryland finally made it through DC and stayed with my mother for a few hours until my brother from New York arrived. We finally reached my mother’s house on the afternoon of the twelfth. We came through the door tired and grieved. We fell into waiting arms, clung to one another, and sobbed.

How strange to walk this earth after death had come. I had experienced death before. Working as an oncology nurse, I had often held the hand of cancer patients as they slipped from this world into the next. It always struck me how surreal are the moments after death. How can the world and its people carry on as though nothing had happened? It is like looking through a lens, watching the events of life unfolding, yet without being part of it. In that moment, life stands still for the grieved, yet the rest of the world continues its pace through time uninterrupted. I wanted to shout, “What are you doing? Don’t you know someone has died? How can you go on as though nothing has changed?”

Well-meaning people would tell me, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.” They would hug me or pat my back as though they could wipe away the sorrow. But how could everything be okay? You cannot fix everything. You cannot undo death. How will this ever be okay?

How do you go back?

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there ‘is’ no going back? There are some things time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep … that have taken hold.” ~ Return of the King

    *     *     *

The story continues in SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). I hope you will join me in this journey, to see what is was that God revealed to me. May it be a light to you when your way is dark.

~ Susan

My Wounded Heart

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The grief was still too near, a matter for tears and not yet for song.

                        ~J. R. R. Tolkien

      

You just sit and try to understand. But some things cannot be understood. Some paths are just too dark to see the other side, and once you have turned down the path there’s no going back. It’s dark and no one can take the journey for you. There is nothing but forward, though you do it with trembling and uncertainty. This journey is not of my choosing, but it is mine nonetheless.

*                   *                   *

          After two weeks of dealing with the aftermath of September 11, our family returned home. I was to resume the threads of a normal life. But how could life ever be normal again? Outwardly, I performed all that was expected. Inwardly, I felt as though I was moving through a thick fog, dazed and confused. Within days of arriving home, we celebrated our youngest son’s birthday. I sat there looking on, knowing that I needed to cherish the moment, this first birthday of my last child, but really, I wasn’t even there. I felt nothing. I was numb. My son’s entire life has been his mother trying to come to terms with 9/11. Yet somehow, I walked through the days and months that followed. The school year continued, more birthdays came; then the holidays approached, and the weariness set in.

Life is hard. Just the breath we take in can become a burden. There were days when all I could do was focus on the next moment, for to look beyond that next moment was overwhelming. I would go through the day saying, “All I am going to do is unload the dishwasher. That is all I have to do. I will think of nothing but unloading the dishwasher.” Then I would swallow the tears and unload the dishwasher. Then I would say, “Now I am going to load the dishwasher. I will think of nothing but loading the dishwasher….” Moment to moment was all I could handle. I wanted to throw the covers over my head and stay in bed forever. But I had a baby who needed me, so I got up and faced each new day, each day where no dawn could reach me.

The terror of it all surrounds me. Though I would shake it off, it pursues me, violently storming against me. How can I outrun the wind? The more I leave off, the more it seeks me out. My soul is poured out in my distress. I am dissolved in a flood of tears, my vessel full of holes so that nothing is contained. “The days of affliction take hold of me.” (Job 30:15–16)

How can God understand my hurt? “Does He have eyes of flesh? Or does He see as man sees?” (Job 10:4) Even worse, if He grasps how I feel, how could He let this happen knowing full well how this would affect me? If God is Love, how can He allow Hate to strike His own?

*                            *                            *

         “What strength do I have, that I should hope?” (Job 6:11a) My mind is like a house filled with archways. I have no doors that I can shut against the grief. My sorrow flows freely into all aspects of my life. I can never escape it. “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” (Job 3:26)

And so the tears come as the loss overwhelms, like a wave that crashes into me and tosses me, threatening to drag me out to sea. Each new memory casts me back into the grief and loss. The emptiness consumes me, a fire that cannot be extinguished.

Yet Hope springs in the darkest hour. book cover 1

~ Susan

See what God has shown me through the tragic events of September 11 in my true and personal account: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story)

Excerpts taken from SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story): Episode 2 – Awakened and Episode 3 – Tears

Forsaken

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israelite in Jerusalem and the army of Assyria is encamped against your walls. All the nations around you whyhaveyouforsakenme_wide_t_nvhave fallen. Jerusalem is the last city standing, your city, Zion, which God had promised to protect.

Isaiah 49:14 speaks of the people’s reaction:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”

Forsaken by God. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. Even Jesus experienced this emotion when upon the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have felt forsaken. On September 11, 2001, my father was ripped from this world by terrorists. In that moment, I felt forsaken. All that I had believed in, trusted in, was stripped out from under me.

But hear what God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands…..

This is not just taking a pen and writing your name on His skin. You have been inscribed, that is, engraved. He has taken a blade and carved His palm, wounding His flesh so that forever He will bear the scars of your name upon His hands.

Not only does He know our name, but He bears our scars upon His flesh…forever.

I have journeyed down a dark and empty road: alone, abandoned, and forsaken. But I have found something along this desolate way: a beautiful truth. My foundation is sure…and I am not alone.

We all face trials. We have difficult times. God never promised us otherwise. In fact, He told us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But He did not leave us to travel this world without aid.

Listen what the Lord proclaims:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Isaiah 51:12)

Now this next part is a little condemning to me…God says:

“Who are you that you should be afraid?”

I have been afraid. I am sure you have too. We live in a world full of terror. But who are we that we should be afraid when the Lord is our God? If we are afraid, we do not believe.

“Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.” (Isaiah 51: 12-13)

We have a powerful God. So why do we fear?

What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

“But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared— The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:15-16)

We do not have a God who looks on from the outside as we struggle along the way. But we have a God who enters with us into the midst of the fire. He walks the troubled path with us, taking us through to the other side. He is our God and we are His people, engraved upon his hand: a perpetual covenant between the Lord and His chosen.

So as you travel the journey of this earthly life, remember: you are not forsaken.

~ Susan

Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down (a 9/11 story)If you would like to learn more about Susan’s experience with September 11, 2001, read her book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or your area retailers.

 

The Sitting Room with Kath Chiero

“I am wounded. I feel wounded. I try to go about my life as though everything is fine, like I’m OK. But I have been lacerated to my core and I carry the hurt with me always.”- Susan VanVolkenburgh speaking about the loss of her father in the attacks on 9/11. Hear her story and remember our loss on Sunday at 5:00 EST www.610wtvn.com

September 11

A Dreadful Day – For those of us who remember that September morning also recall the pain, sadness and hopelessness that clouded a nation. Thousands died and the victims’ families were forced to begin a journey that none of them wanted to take.

Susan Van VolkenburghKathy welcomes into The Sitting Room, Susan Van Volkenburgh, author of the book, “Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down: (A 9/11 Story)” to recount her journey. On September 11, 2001 at 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 plummeted into the Pentagon, taking the lives of 184 innocent people. One of them was Susan’s father, Stanley R. Hall. At that moment, everything changed for Susan. Everything she knew, everything she ever believed in, came crashing down. Her life began to unravel. This ten-year journey through the desert, through a land where God was silent, was a time of trial and of spiritual awakening. Could faith endure in the face of so great a loss, so large a betrayal? Transcending the events of September 11, this spiritual odyssey moves through the mire of grief and loss, to question the very motives and promises of God.

My Father Which Art in Heaven….

The wound runs deep, ripped open anew. As blood spills out of my ruptured heart, others look on in confusion from across the aisle. They do not understand. It has not always been so for me. But now it is my reality with each passing year. The light is so bright; the cheerful shoppers pass through the card filled aisle. I take a step closer to the brightly colored display. It holds no joy for me, just a reminder of what I have lost…

Every year it is the same. I have to select Father’s Day cards for other fathers in my family, but all I can do is think of the one missing, the one ripped from my life, killed by hate. Gall rises in my throat. I clench my teeth. My father’s words run through my mind, “Don’t let anyone or anything have dominion over you but God.” But tragedy changes you, shapes you into someone new.

I sit here looking at the blank page. The words come with difficulty. I desire to write a tribute for Father’s Day, but to be honest, it is a difficult time for me. My mind reels against me for it is too painful to walk down that path again. I have fought so hard to rise above the grief, to climb up that spiral of sorrow.

It begins with Memorial Day, that downward trek into grief. I struggle to rise, clinging to the sides of the spiral. I do not want to slide back down. The upward journey is too hard. But it is the way is has been since my father was taken on that terrible day, September 11, 2001.Bench at Pentagon

I fight against myself: want versus will. I am weary of thinking about my loss, yet I was so privileged to have had such a good father. And so I push back against the pain to share with you my father.

When I was in grade school, I had to write a small piece describing whom I thought was a great person in the world. I could have chosen anyone: a sports figure, a movie star, a person in history. Instead, I wrote, “My father, because he loves me and he is nice. I love my father. When I need help he helps me.”

Whenever I needed help with homework, I often ventured downstairs to my father’s office. He was always willing to stop his own work to come to my aid. Often I desired his assistance in achieving the solution to one particular math problem, but he would go into a long dissertation attempting to lead me to understand the reasoning behind the mathematical operation. I would grow impatient, wanting to get on with it so I could just finish my homework and move on to more interesting pursuits. Nonetheless, he would continue until I had a solid grasp of the concept.

When I had questions about the Bible or God, my father would never just come out and provide me with direct answers. He would put on that crooked smile of his, lean back in his chair, and point to his bookshelf.

“The answer can be found in one of these books.”

I would sigh, my shoulders slumping, wanting quick answers. Then I would search his library until I found what I needed to resolve my query.

Now, as I look back, I am so thankful for the instruction he gave me. I have spent my life seeking answers to questions, desiring to learn and understand. Research has become my passion. Really, I could spend all day researching any number of topics. I credit my father for this love of learning that I now possess. What I saw as a frustration when I was teenager, I cherish now as a gift. And so, I pass the teaching on to my children. I see the same frustration in their eyes, and I smile and thank God that I was blessed to have the father that I had.

stanley hallI remember when we lived in Westlake, California, waking up to the sun filtering through the window of my bedroom. My window was open, as it often was, filling the room with the wholesome morning air, the kind of air that takes you out of yourself. The sound of the pool filter humming met me as I rejoined the waking world. It was a warm, comforting sound. I would look out my window and see my father working on the filter or cleaning the pool. How safe I felt knowing my father was always there.

He was a safe harbor. There was something in my father that spoke of assurance and power. His very presence was overwhelming. His Being spoke of something great and important.

My father was a serious-minded person. He was a humble man. Never did I see him put on airs or become puffed up by his own brilliance. Yet, this humility did not engender in him a sense of passivity that allowed others to sway him when he knew he stood in the right. He possessed a quiet stubbornness, which my husband will tell you I inherited, that provided him with the staunchness to stand his ground. This stubbornness grew into a resolve to live his life with integrity, despite the pressures and trials of life.

With hard work and tenacity, he believed all situations could have a favorable outcome. Though often shy with people, his affable nature often overcame his feelings of bashfulness, his commanding presence covering up any evidence of his uneasiness. Favorably disposed, he was a man upon whom one could depend. Understated by design, my father maintained a firm composure under the most extreme circumstances. Though his attitude was one of restrained equanimity, he did not demonstrate a dull persona.

Predominately serious in nature, my father was not without humor. When he bought his first wash and wear suit, he did just that. He wore the suit, entered the shower (still arrayed), and proceeded to wash it with a bar of soap. My mother captured this event in a photograph that I have always enjoyed gazing upon with a giggle.graphic 4

When I was a child, my father would quietly sit at the kitchen table while we ate dinner. Then he would begin singing, “Daddy sang bass, Mama sang tenor,” using amusing voices—the bass part in his lowest bass, the tenor voice, his best female falsetto. We would all roar with laughter. We cherished these few glimpses, for he rarely showed his lighter side.

Often my father was seen making a trek across the lawn on his riding mower, waving to the neighbors. Or walking behind his snowblower, a monstrous machine in which he took great pride. Many a weekend, he would walk through the woods behind my parent’s house, tending the dogwood trees, which were highly favored in his sight. Among the trees, he labored to build a flagstone patio where he envisioned the family gathering to pick crabs. It was this patio that he worked on the weekend before September 11. With just a few stones left to place, he quit for the day, telling my mother that he would finish the job when he returned from his trip to California. He never had the chance to finish. My brother completed the task as a labor of love and remembrance. The patio stands as a symbol of my father’s life unfinished.

My father spent most of his time pursuing solitary endeavors. He kept his thoughts close. When it came to emotions, expressing himself verbally was difficult. He could not initiate a hug or form the words, “I love you.” As I became an adult, I decided I would hug him. At first, I found that I had difficulty initiating the hugs, but the more I pushed myself, the easier it became. Always, when he came to visit me while on business, he would linger at the door as though waiting for something. I would reach out and hug him, and then he would hug me back.

Sometimes, words are difficult. My father always said that actions speak louder than words. Though very busy with work, my father always took time to attend our music and sporting events. He was often in the role of assistant coach to our sport teams. His actions never failed to say I love you.

graphic 8 (2)He could never tell us outright that he was proud of us, but we could see it on his face. On my wedding day, as I slipped my arm through my father’s as he prepared to walk me down the aisle, I looked into his eyes and saw them well up with tears. I will never forget that expression. No words were necessary; his eyes said it all.

My sister told me of a conversation she and her husband had with my father on the Labor Day before September 11, 2001 regarding the end of time. My father had said the main point to remember is that the end will come, and we just need to be sure we are ready. How profound, for within a week’s time my father was taken. He often did not say much, but when he spoke, his words were thoughtful and wise.

We will probably never know why some people were saved and others were lost that day. Maybe it is not for us to know. What I do know is that God holds tomorrow, and there are no better hands to hold it than the Lord’s.

There is no question in my mind that on the morning of September 11 my dear father followed God and entered into his glory.

Many of us have been fortunate to have had an earthy father that gave us insight into the heart of God. I thank the Lord for a godly father, who stood for integrity, faith, honor, and love.

~Susan

Biography excerpts taken from SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).

To learn more about my experience with September 11, 2001, read my book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or your area retailers.