13 years ago, I lost a friend on the 93rd floor of the North Tower.
I delivered his eulogy about a month later. I was 26 years old and was tasked with honoring my friend’s life, making sense of the senseless and comforting the mourning. It remains to this day, the hardest message i’ve had to deliver.
Every year, as this day comes around, I try to remind myself of the lessons that I’ve learned since then. I repost my thoughts every year to as an exercise of reminding myself (and hopefully some of you, too) of what it was like. I guess I am trying to take that #neverforget hashtag seriously.
My hope is that through reading this, you are reminded of God’s goodness and sovereignty.
Planes exploding like missiles, skyscrapers falling like waterfalls, and debris scattering like sawdust. Eleven years ago, I turned on the TV and saw the same pictures that you have seen.
Andy, my closest friend at that time, worked on the 93rd floor of the North Tower. No one had heard from him. During the week, I drove around to local hospitals to see if there had been any unidentified victims, dead or alive. But I was grieved to realize that there just weren’t any remains to be identified.
By the time Saturday arrived, I had come to grips with the fact that I would never see Andy alive again. This was not a sudden realization, it was a slowly diminishing hope. I, myself, had to make the decision that he was dead. There was no one to tell me, no one to decide for me. I had to be the one to kill the possibility of his survival. Some decided before me and some decided after me. But when I decided, I decided alone.
In my mourning, the impulse was to stare at the injustice of it all—What had Andy done to any of these people?—and blame someone. I wanted to climb to the top of the tallest building still standing and shake my fist at God and yell, “How could you do this? How could you let this happen?”
And then I remembered something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
I was looking for a song to sing for a coffeehouse. A ‘cool’ song. One that people didn’t really know yet. And so, I knew who to turn to. I chatted with my friend who knew a lot of cool songs before they were ‘mainstream.’ (He had the 1st Jars of Clay album before anyone knew who they were.) He told me about this little known song by a little known band called ‘I Can Only Imagine’ by Mercy Me.
The story of the meaning of this song for me was published in Mercy Me’s book ‘I Can Only Imagine: Stories of Eternal Hope.’ I emailed (at my wife’s behest) Mercy Me about the significance of this song to me. I didn’t hear back from them until April 2004 saying that they would like to use my quote in the book. For the usage of that quote, I received an autographed copy of the book, which I still have in my office today. You’re welcome to stop on in and look through it.
Here is what I wrote:
I was first introduced to “I Can Only Imagine” in February 2001. I was looking for a song to sing for a church coffeehouse when my friend told me about it. He bragged on and on about how awesome the lyrics were. He because famous for his passion for this song and it became “his” song. He would wonder and wonder about what it would be like to go to Heaven and see Christ.
It is that song that has helped me mourn his death.
On the morning of September 11, 200, on the 93rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Andy J. Kim stopped wondering. Andy’s death, though tragic and untimely (he was only 27), reminds me of the promise that we have in Christ that we will one day be “surrounded by His glory.”
Richard J Lee
Every 9/11, I think of Andy. Every 9/11, I miss Andy. I hope that is always the case.
I was going through my old videos on my computer and I found this video of Andy playing the guitar and singing. If you knew him, you might want to get some tissues.
Many of the Well blog readers may not know, but this very congregation lost one its members in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Andy Kim. Andy was and remains to be very dear to the people that knew him. At the time of his death, he was probably one of my closest friends. We spoke nearly every day about the mundane and the grave. 7 years later and he is still dearly missed.
I was asked to give his eulogy at his memorial service a month after workers first started looking for his body. There was no casket and there never was. I have long since said that I think the worst way to mourn the death of someone is a slowly diminishing hope of survival.
The following is my Eulogy of Andy Kim. As we all remember that day, may you be reminded of God’s grace and sovereignty.