Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – A Story of God and a Girl

 

Genessa & April

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US, and we all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

Genessa with team

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 13 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven…and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

 

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

 

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

 

16 thoughts on “Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – A Story of God and a Girl”

  1. I too think of 9/11 mostly in light of this loss. I think of how difficult it made for getting her body back to the states for her family. This is beautiful, Debbie

    1. Oh Madelyn, me too…love(d) her so much. One day we will see her with her desire fulfilled – being with her Savior forever. Hallelujah!

  2. This is so beautifully written! Genessa was my first cousin. Our daddys are brothers. She was much younger but made such an impact on all who knew her! This brought tears to my eyes! Very beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Michelle, for commenting. I met your Uncle Gene. She was born later into her family, if I’m remembering that correctly. Born “of another time” in a way…such a blessing, a fresh wind always in our lives. Fresh from Heaven, with an eye for eternity. Every remembrance of her reminds me of what we’re here for. Appreciate your writing.

      1. She was born later. Her oldest brother and sister are over ten years older than her. Jill, my aunt and Genessa’s mother is, if I’m not mistaken, about 14 years older than my mother, who is Genessa’s aunt. We were the four youngest cousins and were all born within about a 3 year span. My sister was the youngest, then Genessa, then me, then Joanna, Genessa’s older, but not oldest sister. I just realized that since Nessa and my sister passed that I’m the youngest of us. I really miss them.

    2. Are you from Gene’s side of the family? I’m Jill’s nephew. Genessa is my first cousin, too.

  3. Thank you for writing this. Genessa was one of my dearest friends. We went to high school together. We became inseparable from the virtually the first time she walked through the doors of our youth trailer at our church.

    I had a dream about her the weekend before the accident. I guess I was looking forward to her coming home to Texas, since she had planned to come back in October. In my dream, she was wearing a white flowing gown and was ascending, almost floating up a spiral staircase. I was behind her stumbling and calling her name, screaming it and I kept falling up the stairs because I was struggling so hard to be near her. She kept going up, never looking back.

    Her dad had called my mom on that Monday telling her there had been an accident. When my mom called me and told me this, I fell to the floor knowing her homecoming was not at all as I had imagined it would be. I was devastated and also inspired by her commitment to serving Christ despite the cost.

    I remember her as a young disciple so eager for knowledge and truth. I remember signing worship songs with her as we were asked to sing for the church’s special music. I remember laughing and crying with her. She was the sister I never had. I look forward to when we can meet again.

    1. Christy, thanks so much for writing and telling me about your relationship with Genessa…and that dream of yours. Wow! Somehow, I believe she must know how her life continues to point people to Jesus. It will be a glorious day when we all meet again. Journey strong, Dear One.

    2. I’m Genessa’s cousin. Our mothers are sisters and our grandmother raised Genessa, her older sister,Joanna, me (I’m Jeremy) and my little sister, Dorianne (who passed away in 2010) together. We were all born within about a 3 year span, from 1975 to 1978. I still have memories of our grandmother packing the four of us (and usually someone else, quite often Genessa’s oldest sister, June) into her little yellow AMC Gremlin and driving to the swimming pool, movies, museum, or some place to entertain us. Even from my earliest memories, Genessa seemed to have an inner light that shined outwards on people and an almost otherworldly innocence. My mom always called her “Woodstock” when we young, because when her hair would stick up, Mom swore that Genessa reminded her of Snoopy’s bird friend. I never really saw it. As we grew into our teen years, we didn’t see each other quite as often and my sister and I went you different schools. We’d still usually gather for holidays and Genessa’s parents house. One of the best parts was when we’d confine my shy and beautiful little cousin to play the piano and sing for us. When she learned I’d started playing guitar, she invited me to accompany her. Sadly, only happened a couple of times. We always swore we’d make the time to get together and try to write some songs together, but we never did. When you’re young, you think you have all the time in the world, don’t you? I guess what I’m trying to say is the wonderful young lady you knew (I’m not sure how long you were friends) was someone very special, talented, and compassionate from the very beginning. She was usually quite a bit quieter than the rest of the family, but some busy airports are slightly more quiet than my family playing Trivial Pursuit. We all knew that she’d do wonderful things and help people in some way, but of course, we didn’t know it would be for such a short period of time. I can honestly say, and I’m sure everyone who knew her will agree that her reputation for being so compassionate and wonderful didn’t come from us wanting to exaggerate those traits just because she’d passed. My whole life,I never heard anyone say a bad thing about her and in pretty positive that I never heard her say something bad about someone else. To be clear, I don’t at all consider myself a religious person (Genessa and I probably couldn’t have been more different) but her, along with our grandmother are at least a little proof of some kind of divinity in this universe. I really kind of was the black sheep as a teenager (long hair, loved heavy metal) but she never judged me for it and actually seemed interested when I’d talk about the music I was (and still am) obsessed with. I still miss her. But I take a little comfort knowing that she was doing what she loved and felt like God her led her to do. Rest in peace, little cousin. Maybe we’ll see each other again someday.

      1. Jeremy, hi. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear your story of Genessa. You and she had to be kindred spirits in your love for music. She sang all the time when we knew each other. Sometimes, she would lead music for a group sing. Occasionally, especially if the song had to do about Jesus, she couldn’t hold back her tears. She really loved/s him. There was never any pretension in Genessa. She was the real deal. I think if she had made it home, you would have been close. I actually would never have called Genessa “a religious person”. She just know Jesus, and she knew herself. She didn’t see herself as innocent or a special person. She saw how much she needed a Savior…and that was Genessa. Without judging anyone (seriously, I never ever experienced her as judgmental), she would just open the door gently for others to see Jesus in her…He became real to a lot of people because of her. I do hope you see her one day. I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to meeting you one day as well. Again, thanks for the family history. It makes me smile to think of you all growing up together. I’m so sorry for your loss of a sister and a cousin.

  4. We were arriving at our hotel in Cairo when we got a call about what was happening in the U.S. What was happening there was a blur in light of all that was happening where we were. So for me, too, the loss of Genessa marks 9/11.

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