A Post 9/11 World

A Post 9/11 World

remember-9-11The tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001 profoundly changed my life. ¬†At the time, I was an up-and-coming ad executive in a well-known and well-respected advertising agency. ¬†Only a few months before 9/11, I had been moved to a big office on what was lovingly referred to internally as “Executive Row.” ¬†My hard work was paying off. ¬†The new office space was validation that my efforts had been noticed–reassuring my ego that I was on the fast track to greater things. ¬†How wrong I was.

I remember the morning of 9/11 well; the sky was clean and clear, the air crisp, and everything seemed right with the world. ¬†After arriving at work, I recall hesitating at the front door–for just a moment–to take it all in. ¬†Once inside, I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee and headed to my office to start my day. I flipped the radio on, which was tuned to a local AM news/talk station. ¬†It was during that broadcast that I heard the first report of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. ¬†My instincts told me this was no accident. Unfortunately, I was right.

From the lobby of our great office building I watched multiple broadcasts feed the public images of the first tower in flame. ¬†Somehow I knew there would be a second plane. ¬†As people gathered around the televisions I recall uttering the words, “This isn’t over.” ¬†Then, as if on cue, the second plane slammed into the second tower. ¬†We were under attack. ¬†

In that moment, my future was changed forever. ¬†Immediately, the phones fell silent. ¬†One of my primary clients (an airline) went bankrupt. In the silence, no one had to say anything…we all knew that our jobs–and our Nation–were in jeopardy. One month later, I was unemployed.

¬†It was as if someone had pulled the plug on my fairytale life. ¬†The young can-do, ladder-climbing executive with so much promise had been reduced to rubble. ¬†Not only was I out of work, but my wife and I were expecting our first child. ¬†My wife worked hard to appear strong, but I knew that her fears ran deep. ¬†I assured her daily that God would provide a way for us, but honestly, I was having doubts of my own. ¬†Everything had changed. ¬†My role as provider had changed. ¬†My identity as a young, capable up-and-comer was gone. ¬†My friends from within the industry were scattered like the four winds. ¬†There I was left to piece together my career and provide stability for my growing family. ¬†I was no longer the captain of my destiny…I was adrift.¬†

The 9/11 attacks created a financial ripple throughout our Nation’s economy that is still present today. ¬†The advertising industry took a particularly hard hit, as marketing budgets are often the first to be slashed in times of economic crisis. ¬†I was too young to realize the long-term negative impact this event would have on my career. ¬†In my mind I thought if I simply applied myself, I would find something new and my kingdom would be restored. ¬†In reality, America was in the early stages of a much larger financial crisis that would impact every worker in every industry for years to come.

While I never abandoned my faith during this ordeal, I must admit that I was often blind to what God was doing in my life. ¬†My expectation was to quickly rebound, and again, become that which I once was. ¬†That never happened. Weeks became months, and months became years; jobs came and went, but always without me finding any real satisfaction. ¬†I desperately craved what I had lost. ¬†After all, I had worked so hard for it. ¬†In many ways I felt that it was owed to me. ¬†In my headstrong ignorance I failed to comprehend that the future I desired was gone…FOREVER. ¬†It was not coming back and I could not recreate it. ¬†Now what?

At my lowest point, I realized something immensely important: God never¬†abandoned me. ¬†Much like Jonah, in my¬†own bitterness, I failed to see the shade God was providing me. ¬†My need for justice and restitution prevented me from seeing just how blessed I truly was. ¬†I was angry (so angry). My family and I had been through so much…I had worked so hard…I had kept my nose to the grindstone…and yet, I never regained the treasure of the lost world I once knew. ¬†I was arrogant. ¬†Like the vineyard worker I wanted more for my effort. ¬†So, when more did not come, I pushed even harder in an attempt to overcome adversity through sheer will. ¬†I was also a fool. ¬†

It was not going to be my will, my path, or my plan that determined my future. While I certainly had influence over my decisions–good and bad–God was in control. ¬†What’s more, He had been with me the whole time. ¬†In my low place, I came to understand that as one opportunity closed, God provided another. This awkward journey was in fact a remarkable work of God’s love. ¬†Through it all, the right prayers were answered and our needs were met. The end of one job became the beginning of another. ¬†Money miraculously appeared (often in the strangest of ways). ¬†Through it all, our¬†family grew closer.

For me, I learned to trust God. ¬†While He never returned me to my lost kingdom, He did keep me on a path that made me a¬†stronger¬†person. Over the past fifteen years, I have worked in some strange and amazing places and I’ve learned¬†things that changed me, improved me, and made me better than the person I would have been.

The human side of me will always wonder what life would have been like without 9/11. Certainly, if I could change that fateful day in history, I would. However, the person I have become through that trial is someone I wouldn’t change for the world.


John Long III
The Afternoon Drive