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  • Eric Kampmann

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me

lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he

restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his

name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow

of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and

your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the

presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup

overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days

of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

— Psalm 23:1–6

Until one clear, bright September morning in 2001, it would be fair to say that America had taken a short vacation from history. The smaller matters of everyday life were paramount, with the nature of evil receding to an irrelevance, as chasing wealth seemed to become the only worthwhile obsession. America seemed to float in a sea of distractions until nineteen men exploded our national revelry in an instant.

By the end of that day, people were lighting candles all over America. People were praying in groups and individually. They were shocked out of their everyday lives and pursuits into a realization that something unexpected and terrible had happened. While television covered the unfolding events minute by minute, people understood that this time it was different. They could imagine the horror of being trapped in the World Trade Center or being a passenger on one of the four planes that had been used as weapons. At the same time, they could identify with Todd Beamer and the other heroes of Flight 93 out of Newark or the policemen and firefighters who risked everything to save some.

At a certain moment that day, millions of people were shocked out of the reveries of everyday life into a realization that something had changed and changed utterly. No one could say what that change might mean or be, but it is possible to imagine that millions called out to God that day from the valley of the shadow of death and for some, maybe for the first time in a long time.

—Eric Kampmann, Signposts

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