September 28, 2001
Dear Friend of the National Legal Foundation,
On Tuesday, September 18, 2001, as I drove to work, the DJ on the radio asked people to call in and tell where they had been at 8:48 the week before. That, of course, was the time when the first plane flew into the World Trade Center.
I didnt call the radio station. But I wept.
At 8:48 on September 11, I was in a traffic jam beside the Pentagon. Little did I know that about 45 minutes later, the terrorists would fly an airplane into that building, too.
During those intervening 45 minutes, I had made it out of the traffic jam and had arrived at my destinationthe national headquarters of Concerned Woman for America. I was in Washington that day to meet with leaders of about 15 other ministries to talk about coordinating our efforts with theirs.
As the staff of Concerned Women for America continued to come in with news updates on developing events, we quickly decided we could no longer continue our meeting. Instead we gathered around a TV together and watched the unfolding horror.
We were together when the report came in about the attack on the Pentagon. We went out onto the balconies of the building that houses CWA and saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon.
We were just three blocks from the White House and three blocks from the State Department. From the Pentagon, once you cross the Potomac River, its about ten blocks to where we were.
I will never forget the events that happened in the next few hours. We immediately went to the Lord in prayer. The ministry leaders gathered together with the CWA staff and we all prayed together. After prayer, we each had some very tough decisions to make.
To understand what happened next, you have to understand that in those early minutes after the tragedy, the news media reported many false stories. Because of things that turned out not to be true, we believed that the situation was much worse even than it was.
We received reportswhich praise God turned out to be falsethat the Pentagon had been hit by two planes, that the State Department had been car bombed, that another hijacked plane was circling Dulles Airport, and that a plane had been flown into the Sears Tower in Chicago. We also received the reportwhich turned out to be tragically trueof the plane that went down in Pennsylvania.
We felt as if we were in a city and a nation under siege. All of the main arteries going out of the city to the south and west were closed. Even some going east were shut down or only flowing one-way.
At this point in time we didnt know what to do or where to go. Once the government evacuated all its buildings, the traffic was snarled beyond belief.
We had seen the World Trade Center towers collapse and heard the reports of those injured and killed from the debris. We were eleven stories up in the air . . . three blocks from the White House (which we now know had originally been a target) and three blocks from the State Department, which at that time we believed had been car bombed.
We had no reason to believe that the attack was over. We didnt know where the next plane or the next bomb might hit. Praise God, with hindsight, we now know that the attack was actually over.
But thats not what we experienced at the time. We thought the danger was still ongoing.
And so we had some hard decisions to make. Some thought it would be better to stay put. Others thought we should get out of the building. Some wanted to get out of the city. Others didnt. But where could you go? So many roads were closed.
And which roads would be safe? We actually discussed which roads to avoid because they contained likely targets for car bombs. What if we took the wrong road and were in the wrong place at the wrong time?
One of the worst parts was that no one could reach their loved ones to let them know they were OK so far . . . or to tell them good-bye in case the worst happened. All cell phone and regular phone circuits were jammed.
I finally decided to try to get out of the city by going east and then, once I was well out of the city, turning south to head home.
But there would be obstacles along the way. The first stop was the parking garage. I had parked in one of those garages that are built directly beneath a building and in which you leave the keys with an attendant. Then when you get ready to leave, they go get your car and bring it to you.
By the time I got to the garage, there were about twenty-five people ahead of me. The attendants were literally running up and down the steep ramps, retrieving car after car. They were dripping sweat and their shirts were plastered to their skin. There was a look of fear in their eyes. I believe that they were afraid that their building could be the next to be attacked and they might be trapped under ground.
Remember, at this time, we believed the attack was still going on. People were on top of federal buildings with missile launchers and fighters were flying overhead. The city seemed to be under siege.
The next obstacle was finding gasoline. I knew that I didnt have enough gas to sit in the horrible traffic jam that the city had become. But it seemed as if no one knew where gas was in the heart of the city. Finally, someone was able to tell me where a station was located.
By the time I got to the station, the run on gas had started. It took me about twenty minutes to get a pump. And by the time I left, about five times as many cars were waiting as when I arrived.
As I made my way slowly out of Washington, I continued to try to get a call out on my cell phone. Finally, after two hours of trying, I reached my house. But no one was home. So I had to leave a message on the answering machine.
That was the hardest part of all. I left a message for my wife, telling her that so far I was OK and that I was getting farther and farther from any likely targets for airplanes. But at that time it was still believed that the State Department had been car bombed and I had no idea where other bombs might be. So I also had to tell my wife in my message, "In case the worst happens, I love you and I love the kids."
That was hard. That really brought everything home to me. I spent most of the rest of the drive home praying about those things that I regretted in my relationship with my wife and my children and in the rest of my life. In a word, I repented of a lot of things.
In the days since the terrorist attacks, we have all asked "Why?" and "What should our response be?" For me, it didnt require any theological debate. My natural and immediate response was to repent.
As Billy Graham said during the Memorial Service at the National Cathedral, "One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His Word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and were to turn to Him and He will bless us in a new way."
I hope and trust that all of our NLF supporters have turned to God in repentance by now. If not, let me encourage you to do so. We all stand in need of our Saviors forgiving grace.
Furthermore, I believe that Billy Grahams comments spoke of both personal and national sin and repentance. Not only should we all heed Billy Grahams call to personal repentance, but we must also redouble our efforts to eliminate our national sins.
Since the tragedy that struck our nation, I have been especially thinking about abortion. I suppose its because the huge number of deaths on September 11 has reminded me of the huge number of deaths that happen every day in this country due to abortion. Based on annual statistics, 65,700 babies have been killed in this country since September 11. Thats more than ten times as many people as were killed in the terrorist attacks. And every day it takes for you to get this letter, add another 3,650 babies.
But its not just abortion. So many of the issues that you and I deal with here at the National Legal Foundation are issues that could be considered "national sins." And as I have re-dedicated myself to working on eliminating personal sin, I have also re-dedicated myself to the work the NLF does, not only to protect religious liberty, but also to fight abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and judicial tyranny.
But right now its tougher than ever to fight this good fight. Let me be brutally honest about the reasons this fight is so tough right now.
First, so many Americans are giving generously to relief efforts and to supporting the victims families. Let me clearly state that I think that is wonderful and I dont begrudge a dime of that money. In fact, our Administrator here at the NLF lost family in the collapse of the World Trade Center. We want people to support families like hers. However, it is a simple fact that with so much funding flowing to these efforts, less money is coming to other charities.
Second, some Christian leaders have made statements that have offended many people, both inside and outside the church. These leaders have said that God allowed or even caused this attack because of our sins as a nation. I know that some of our supporters may be very offended at this statement. I also know that some of our supporters may agree with the very statements that make others so angry. My point is not to say which group of supporters is right or wrong.
My point is this: Whether we are angered by, or agree with, these other Christian leaders, we can all agree with Billy Grahamwe need to repent as individuals and as a nation. It is one thing to identify obvious national sins, as I have in this letter. It is another thing to claim to know that there is a direct cause and effect relationship.
But my concern is that the National Legal Foundation may well suffer from "guilt by association," since we deal with so many of the issues that these Christian leaders have mentioned. Therefore, we may suffer from a lack of funding at the very time when we need it most.
In fact, financial support has fallen off markedly over the past two and a half weeks.
Yet there can be no doubt that we must re-double our effort against the things that you and I have opposed for so long. We cannot stop funding the fight against abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and judicial tyranny, simply because of some statements made by others may be offensive to us or to others.
At this very moment, the battle continues. Even after the terrorist attacks, we were called upon to help students whose schools were giving them a hard time about the "See You at the Pole" prayer event (that I wrote to you about in my last letterironically that letter was written the day before the attack.).
Ive already mentioned the continuing death toll of abortion.
But perhaps most significant has been the actions of the homosexuals since September 11. In California, on September 12the day after the attack!the legislature passed a bill giving homosexual partners twelve of the benefits of marriage.
And in Washington, D.C., its worse. Senator Ted Kennedy and homosexual Representative Jim Kolbe are pushing for "domestic partner" benefits for the District of Columbia, a "hate crime" measure in an education bill, and a homosexual jobs bill. The hate crime measure could result in teachers telling Christian children that their Biblical beliefs about homosexuality are bigotry.
And so, we must stand fast . . . and the NLF must be financially sound!
Frankly, I need your help like Ive never needed it before . . . please let me hear from you today.
Steven W. Fitschen
P.S. I do not want to manipulate the tragedy of September 11 for fundraising purposes. To do so would be an insult to the memories of all those who were lost.
Rather, I have tried to do three things in this letter. First, I have tried to let you know how much my experience of September 11 has impacted me. I have re-dedicated myself to dealing with personal sin and to fighting against our national sins. I really believe that any of us could be terrors next victim and I want to live my life differently. Second, I have encouraged you to join me in a re-commitment to personal and national repentance. Third, I have tried to honestly let you know of our dire need for your financial support. Again, I hope I have done this in a straight forward, rather than a manipulative, manner. Let me say it as simply and as directly as I can: We need your financial support as we never have before. I thank you in advance for it.