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The day 1 trauma of the 9/11 attacks was overwhelming, said the Rev. David Byrd, pastor of Oelwein's First Baptist Church.

That morning in 2001, he was at a ministerial meeting in Cartersville, Illinois. They began to hear the news as their time together was coming to a close. They went to their cars and turned on their radios.

"Then we hear about the planes and the first thing I though about was: I had flown on a plane before. I have no idea what that would have been like to have been on one of those planes and picturing we're going to crash into something that represents America. And it was so overwhelming for me that I just couldn't quite get my head around it.

He called his oldest brother, Wade.

"I said, 'Wade, I don't know if I can help anybody today.' I said 'I'm just feeling really unprepared to give any kind of counsel because I'm having a hard time.' And I remember him saying to me, 'Dave, you need to get it together."

Byrd said he was overwhelmed by it until waking the following day.

"But that one day when it was going on, I was a mess all day," he said.

"As pastors, we let people know they can come to God with whatever their hearts concerns are. But I also know that for me, I was really feeling every bit of my humanity, feeling really helpless, and overwhelmed by just the tragic loss of so many lives."

On that day of the attack, he has gone into Paducah, Kentucky and saw "incredibly long" lines at the gas stations.

"And gas prices were up I think between 50 and 75 cents per gallon on the day of," he said, which didn't make logical sense because the station's supplies could not have been affected that day.

"They may be in future shipments of gas, and I just thought why would Americans be taking advantage of fellow Americans at time of crisis like this," he said. "There were just some things that went on that day that were just — When I was watching on TV it was kind of like "are they filming a movie? It felt surreal, like this can't really be happening.

"And then when you saw the planes go into the buildings and see the buildings just crumple underneath, all that gasoline exploding, my heart just went out to a lot of people I would never know because of loss of life for so many families that happened in a moment. In an instant, all those lives that got changed."

It's the unity he soon saw that bolsters his faith in the resilience of the United States as it faces new struggles 20 years later

"Did you ever see the picture of the crowd (with the) the little girl holding the American flag. She was on her daddy's shoulders. I saw that, and I looked at that, and I went 'We're America. "We're going to come back from this. And I was really heartened by our resilience and being able to say, 'They may have done that, but they're not going to defeat us.'"

It was like a battle for the soul of the nation, he said.

"So when I looked at the steps that were being taken to combat this horrible evil event, I drew comfort from knowing that we were in this together as a nation. It's 20 years later and I marvel when I think back what it was 20 years ago and how we did pull together.

"And I remember how strongly supportive the words of the president were. and the mayor of New York and just different people that were helping us know that, 'You know, you are not alone. Its affecting all of us, but that we have it within us to rise above this.'

On that day he was lost, and is grateful "that God helped me find my way back, because then you do need to minister to a lot of people, because it really did affect a lot of people. But on that day, God really sheltered me from having to reach out and try help somebody else.

In the following days, his and other churches were praying all over town "for helping us as a nation come together."

The nation today is dealing with the trauma of its 20-year war in Afghanistan coming to an end.

"We're going to get through this too," Byrd said, adding that like during 9/11 "God's going to help us lead us through this."

This is a continuing saga, Byrd said. 

"It happened 20 years ago, we remember each year and we mark that as an anniversary of us coming together," he said. "But realizing that, 'OK, now we got another set of events 20 years later that now we're having to deal with as a country, but that we will get through it. And I'm really glad about that, because, you see, we are still fresh in the moment of what's going on over in Afghanistan. We're right here, fresh, and we don't have the luxury of getting beyond it like we have been through 9/11, but we can do this and I know God is going to help us as a nation come together to get all those who we need to home, and just hoping that from a military standpoint we're going to be able  to make things happen as they need to to get people safely. 

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