Today is the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack of 9/11. 20 years. Can you still remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard of it? I can. I think it’s been forever engrained in my memory. It was something that was so impacting.
I was getting ready for work, living in a 2 bedroom apartment with my good friend Willie Sanchez. I had just finished eating breakfast, most likely a homemade breakfast burrito (2 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, a slice of cheese, on a tortilla, with Ketchup). I had been watching part of Star Wars Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi while I was eating breakfast. (I’m a huge Star Wars fan). It was part of the final battle, specifically where the Ewoks were taking out the AT-STs. And I turned the movie off when I finished eating, and turned it on to the News on 6, one of our local news stations, to listen to the local news while I finished getting ready for work.
Except the news was showing the 1st tower and the smoke coming out of it. My first thought was that maybe the news wasn’t on, that they were showing a movie or a clip of a new movie that was coming out. But the more I watched, the more I realized that this was live and real. And that was when the 2nd plane hit the tower.
It was hard finishing getting ready for work, and even harder turning off the news to go to work. Luckily, I was only 3 miles from work and I worked in an IT helpdesk, so I could tune in on the internet when I got to work.
But the event was so significant that the local rock radio station, Z104.5, was not playing music. For that day, they had become a news station. They stayed a news station through the rest of the day. All the radio stations that I checked out were not playing music that day. They were all news stations that day.
Other details that I can remember that day: I can remember the scare of gas that day, that there were lines at gas stations because people were afraid that there would be a gas shortage. I can remember wondering if our building would get hit (as we were in a taller building for Tulsa.) I can remember all of us at work watching the news online, and our manager coming in and telling us to turn it off because no one wanted to hear it, and us ignoring him. I can remember when one of my coworkers first noticed the people jumping from the top on the live feed. I can even remember talking to a few customers about the news while helping them with their PC issues.
These are my memories from that day. I honestly can’t remember much about any other 9/11 in my life, with the exception of when I was a teen at a friend’s birthday party, whose birthday is on 9/11, where I made an extreme fool of myself by accidentally dumping his birthday cake (sorry Don). But I can remember 9/11/2001 in vivid detail, even after 20 years. I’m pretty sure that it’s the same with you, that you have your own vivid, detailed memories of that day. The reason we can remember that day is because it was a major event that happened that day, one that had never happened before. It was not just some regular day to day event.
Some critics of Christianity will charge that the memories of the writers of the New Testament were probably flawed, that things may not have happened as they remembered them. Or they charge that too much time had passed between the occurrence and when it was written down.
Paul’s writings were all written before he was martyred in 63 AD, so within 33 years of the crucifixion of Jesus. And cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace makes a great case for the early dating and reliability of the gospels. He says,
A significant case can be built to establish the early dating of the Gospels. It starts by establishing the authorship date for the Book of Acts. There are several missing historical events in Acts, including the destruction of the Temple (c. 70AD), the siege of Jerusalem (c. 68-70AD) and the deaths of Paul (64-67AD), Peter (64-67AD) and James (61AD). The absence of these events is reasonable if the Book of Acts was written no later than 60AD. Luke wrote two New Testament books; he wrote his Gospel prior to the Book of Acts. The only question is, how much earlier did he write the Gospel? I think there is good evidence support a dating in the early 50’s based on internal evidence in Paul’s letters. Paul appears to have quoted Luke’s Gospel twice; in 1 Timothy 5:18 (written in 63-64AD) he quoted Luke 10:6-7, and in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (written between 53-57AD) he quoted Luke 22:19-20. This means Paul would’ve had access to Luke’s Gospel as early as 53AD. Luke (in the first chapter of the Gospel), told Theophilus: “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you…” This term, “orderly” seems to be extraneous, unless Luke was responding to common first century knowledge about a “disorderly” Gospel. Papias, a first century bishop, famously claimed Mark’s Gospel (written based on the preaching of Peter in Rome) was accurate, if not orderly. Luke appears to have referenced this common knowledge in the opening lines of his Gospel, and Luke quoted Mark’s Gospel more than any other source. But this means the information in Mark’s Gospel is even earlier than Luke’s, placing Mark in the late 40’s or early 50’s. These early dates for both Luke and Mark make it highly unlikely they could have been written without vetting from those who were there and saw the truth about Jesus.
Using this information places the writings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke also within 30 years of the crucifixion. His disciples left their jobs to travel and essentially interned with him for 3 years. Three of those disciples were his closest friends. They were taught by Jesus and trained by Jesus. They were sent out twice before the crucifixion to teach his message. And the reason they were able to remember things like the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus is because it was a major event that had never happened before. Jesus himself was an exceptional and rare person, no matter how you look at him.
So where were you 20 years ago when you heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center? Can you remember events before then? Or does your memory stop 20 years ago? I’ve already written about how God revealed Himself to me that He was real in 1992, how Jesus made himself real to me in 1994, how I was delivered from drugs and healed from a lifetime of depression and suicidal thoughts in 1995. All of these things I can remember like it was yesterday, because they were so exceptional and life changing in my life. These are events now approaching 26 to 29 years ago. I’m sure that you can remember earlier events in your life (providing that you are old enough, of course).
I’m pretty sure in another 15 years, our memories of 9/11/2001 will still be so vivid. My parents, even after 30 years, could still remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that President John F Kennedy was shot. Exceptional people and events stay strong in your memory throughout your lifetime. And that’s how it was with the disciples. They were the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. That’s just one of the reasons why we can trust the reliability of the gospels.