7 words America’s 20-somethings didn’t know before September 11, 2001


As someone in my early-twenties, 12 years is almost half of my life. There have been thousands of growing experiences in those years, but there are just some days that create adulthood in children faster than they ever should.

Never ForgetOf course, we all remember where we were. I sat in the front row of a 6th grade classroom honestly not even knowing what was going on. I hardly had a concept of what an airplane looked like, and had never been to New York City. My teachers were crying, and I wished my teenage sister was with me to tell me what had just happened. I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel about this – but I did know without thinking, that I was scared.

That day changed my entire generation. Until that point, we had the safety of America in which we could rejoice. We trusted that we were always safe here. And we were dreamers, not fighters. What was there to be afraid of? The fight is always miles away. It’s my job to play until I grow up and get to lead the world as an American that the world respects.

But then we learned some things. These are 7 words we never knew, and now some we’ll never forget.

1. Terrorism: [ter-uh-riz-uh m] noun: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce especially for political purposes.

What? What even is that? Why in the world is that even a thing? Those people flew those airplanes into our buildings because it just is what they do? What?

Who would have thought we’d live years of it to come?

2. Al-Qaeda: [al-kaidah] noun: a global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden in Pakistan at some point between August 1988 and late 1989 with his origins being traceable to the Soviet War in Afganistan.

I remember how long it took for me to be able to say this word. And to learn that this is a group that operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and racial Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad. Understanding that these folks could be anywhere in the world at any time begged a lot of questions of me as a child.

3. Osama bin Laden: (March 10, 1957 – May 2, 2011): The founder of Al-Qaeda, and born to a billionaire in Saudia Arabia.

Even as a child, I was a Christian. And I learned very quickly that this man didn’t like us very much. To him, his actions were his truth. And he really needed to believe it to encourage someone to fly a plane into our buildings. And so much more.

4. Mass Casualty: (MCI): any incident in which emergency medical services resources, such as personnel and equipment, are overwhelmed by the number and severity of casualties.

I know as a 6th grader I had no concept of 3,000 people being killed in one location alone. But I did understand that my family wasn’t with me, and that I wanted them to be. I knew what it would be like to be that family waiting for their dad to call home. And I understood that a lot of dads wouldn’t come home that night.

5. Hero: [heer-oh]: noun: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave and noble qualities.

For the first time in my life, I saw true, no-holds-bar heroes. They ran into that plume of gas and debris, and fire, to save someone else’s life. I will never forget that for all of my life. The greatest love is that of laying your life down for that of your brother.

6. Ground Zero: at its purest definition, this is the point on the earth closest to a detonation. That was where those families lost their loved ones.

We still talk about it today the way we did that day. It’s still observed as a place of remembrance. It’s a place of great unity. It’s a place of great American pride. It’s a place that deserves our honor forever.

7. Hope: /h-oh-p/: noun: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

I knew that I had hoped for things in life. I even probably understood it better than most my age because I had already faced childhood cancer, but 9/11 changed what that word meant in a great way. We could have given up, but hope won’t allow that. Instead, we hoped. We hoped for an end of terrorism just as fast as we learned what it was. And we hoped that we could return to America and so many families what they lost that day.

12 years later, us 20-somethings are older. We are more America than we were then. And we’re proud to say that no matter how those words changed our lives, America still hopes. We hope for life for those who hurt us to change, we hope for our own understanding of the need of compassion and selflessness, and we hope always for freedom. Because that’s what we are. Land of the free. Because of the hope of the brave.

We’re America – we won’t forget and we’ll always have infinite strength in our hope.

…because love wins.

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You’re a survivor and that is amazing.


Each day older I grow, I understand more the reality of what it means to have survived childhood cancer. As a younger person, it was just a part of my life; I hadn’t seen much else, and I was just too busy playing to understand what it means to still be alive today. But now, I marvel at my leg, my hair, and my beating heart. Let me tell you why.

I stood up one morning. I took a step, and my knee gave out beneath me. I never knew that I’d never walk on that leg again. I ate my vegetables, and I slept full nights, and I was even nice to my friends. I never would have expected cancer. I probably would have just called you a liar if you would have told me that was really going to be my life.

But alas, I couldn’t walk. Soon, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes, I almost couldn’t breathe. To say that it’s a humbling experience to face mortality is just more of an understatement than I can explain. No one can walk to death with you. It’s you, and Jesus, (which is why you need Him), and death. I met myself in ways that I cannot describe.

I remember laying in bed begging God to make the throwing up end. To bring my friends back to life, and to just make it all be okay. And seriously, I don’t even know how I survived. I looked dead almost every day for a full year.

But then I did. I started to take steps on crutches. I made myself get out of bed. Jesus restored my spirit, and I locked eyes with death, and shook my head, “no.” And I just turned and walked away into the rest of life.

I am 23 now, and I feel like I grasp that death didn’t win, but that it sure could have. My fingers move, I can take a deep breath, and I can kiss my nephew. And it’s very much on purpose that I am alive.

The take-away is this. If you haven’t met death yet, listen to what I say. Right now, you’re a survivor, and that is amazing. Don’t take that for granted.

….because love wins.

An open letter to the world.


Hello citizens of the world,

Today, a friend contacted me and said that she had just checked the news. What did her email say? Just a simple, “:(” What is going on?

I remember my young years growing up in America. I ran across the street freely, I talked to strangers, I could walk to the local pool on my own. At the time, that was how life was. I was thankful we lived in America – I was proud to say the Pledge of Allegiance under God every morning in school.

But clearly something has changed. I remember the first time our school was put on lockdown because someone had carved into the wall that there was a bomb inside of the building. I remember Columbine. And I remember never walking down the hallway to the bathroom at school again without looking where I would be able to hide when a shooter would show up. In my middle school mind, someone coming in with a gun wasn’t an “if,” it was a when.

The headlines today, years later, are worse than ever:

“Man shot by teens – just because.”
“Actor, 29, commits suicide in his Los Angeles apartment.”
“Kids okay after gunfire in Georgia school.”

This used to be the stuff even movie moguls couldn’t come up with. And now it’s my young adult real life. What have we done? What have you done?

The thing is, bad doesn’t just happen. It presents itself as an idea. Maybe it’s in someone’s head who doesn’t ever speak it. Maybe it’s just on an online forum. Or maybe someone really tells someone what they are planning to do, and then it happens anyway. And we’re obviously not noticing soon enough.

Now, I’m not claiming that it’s just your fault that that man was shot while jogging, but I am claiming that it might have been. We’re all connected in this world, and maybe a little less iPhone and a little more real life conversation would let us know when someone is so unwell that these things will happen.

It’s not a debate about guns. Clearly people who want to hurt others can find other ways. But you can find ways to stop it from happening. You are the world, and you are the way we live. It doesn’t just happen.

I see an awful lot of people who could do good, share Jesus, and listen intently to do the right thing for anyone anytime, just not do it. And that? That is not okay. When someone cuts you off in traffic, don’t yell at them. When someone is crossing the road, let them. When your children want to play, don’t be on facebook.

You need to be engaged in the planet on which you live. It’s the little good things that need to come back. They fix it. Drugs will not take you away, alcohol cannot make it better, but telling people about Jesus and treating them like you love them as you love yourself in the grocery store might build the planet we’re trying to achieve in our continuous pursuit of escape.

So, take responsibility for those shootings and that suicide. You. Yes, you. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, seriously evaluate if you can start spending all of your time doing good, kind things. I will tell you; not only can you, but you must. Add patience and understanding to a world. Maybe even having conversations with strangers on a bus. Maybe you saying hi will stop someone from feeling so alone that they must go kill to be noticed.

The downfall of this world is all of us. If we don’t stop it, we let it happen. And it doesn’t improve by just stopping bad. It improves by facing the bad with the good. And seeing that it will win. Please, ask yourself. What more is going to take for you to do something to make this world a better, free, safe, place?

What more is going to take for you to stand up for love and quit sitting and watching the hate win? Please answer, and act. I don’t want to see you be shot because playing Angry Birds on your phone was more important than smiling at someone walking down the sidewalk. You have to save us. And you have to save us now.

Love,
Your Neighbor

PS: Come over and say hi sometime – no need to text.

Dreams do come true.


ImageShe steps out into the light. The backstage had been a flurry of hundreds of people milling around. 

“Decker, check. Check. Check.” 

In 2 hours, thousands of people will enter this auditorium. They’ll come from all around the country. They’ll be in the middle of a fight with their wife. They’ll wish their children could do better in school. They’ll have an autistic sister. They’ll be sad. They’ll be hopeless. They’ll be happy. They’ll understand life, or they won’t. 

She stops out there. Says a prayer.

“Abba, it’s not me. It’s You. You have them. You be with them. You dream loud, speak loud, do what you do. I’m just so human.” 

She looks down at her leg. Who would have thought that this piece of molded plastic would lead to a headset, singing on stage, jumping up and down, crying in front of people? Well, surely not she. She was just this little girl with doggies on her footy pajamas sitting on the porch talking to her Father. 

And a tear falls. One tear, as she looks down at her mom, dad, and sister. Front row, always catching a tear, a hug, a smile, a reminder of who she is. 

Who is she that she could speak through an amputation and chemo drip? 

She’s just a human. Who has lost much. And who has everything, because of Jesus. 

She’s a girl who watches His dreams for her come true every day. 

…because love wins.

That’s actually pretend.


Real Love

I was going to say that I don’t mean to break this to you, but I really do mean to break it to you. If you haven’t heard this before, or don’t seem to understand what I’m about to tell you, be sure to read it over and over and over again until you do.

Most of the things around you are actually pretend.

“What? You’re crazy.”

No, really.

“Um.”

Really. Let’s observe. What decides what you do? How you do it? WHY you do whatever it is that you do? I’m willing to bet it’s for three main reasons:

1) Because someone told you to.
2) Because you’re afraid someone will think less of you because you don’t.
3) Because it’s what everyone else does.

Even if this isn’t it for you (which I am certain for most of the world, it is.), there is a serious joke being played on us.

How can we have a culture that is anything, if all we exist to do is please one another? Half of what you think in your head, either you made up, or the person next to you made up. The lies, the garbage, the “fulfilling” alcohol that you continue to drink. It’s all a sick illusion – a pretend form of real life.

Real is defined as such: Actually existing as a thing or occuring in fact; not imagined or supposed.

I am willing to say that most of your decisions in life about the kind of person that you are, are based totally on pretend premises. That you do them and if you ask yourself why you do them, it’s not because you, at the core of you, know that it’s the right thing to do.

Instead, it’s because of some other fluffy pretend stuff.

Here’s your job for the day.

1) If you haven’t sat in silence for ONE FULL HOUR of your life with no interruptions, do so. Get to know yourself. And Jesus. Those things are in the quiet places.
2) Pick two things you do because someone else told you to that you know aren’t what you should be doing. And then stop doing them.
3) Write down how you see yourself. Then, reverse all the things that say you’re worth nothing. Write down that you’re worth everything as many times as it takes to believe it.
4) If you hate your job, just quit. Stop wasting your life.
5) Go hug your mom, dad, siblings, friends, and maybe even the homeless man on 55th street.
6) Eat fruit.

7) Stop pretending. Stop letting others pretend. Let life be real and quit being afraid of the beauty that could come to you if you just let life be real.

…because love wins.