On 25 June 1996, I was an Airman First Class stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. I’d been in the Air Force for two years, but had not yet been tagged to go on a deployment. I sat in the lounge at the hospital and watched news reports about a horrible terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia, where Airmen in a dorm area known as Khobar Towers had been directly targeted. It wasn’t easy for my 20-year-old, fairly sheltered, self to reconcile that these were my brothers and sisters who had been killed or injured.
We lost 19 Airmen that night; 17 were enlisted. Hundreds, and I mean hundreds, were injured. Over 500 purple hearts were awarded for that night alone. This event changed lives. For forever.
Fast forward 26 years to 2022. This last week, the museum where I work, was able to host over 200 guests who were members at the Khobar Towers, family members of those hurt and those killed, as well as currently serving members representing the KIA units. It was the first time in Air Force history that we specifically honored those who had survived the events of that horrific night.
The courage of the survivors is also covered with mourning. Mourning of the loss of dreams, opportunities, and loved ones. In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn.” It’s appropriate to call on this scripture when our hearts hurt from loss.
It’s also appropriate for us to recognize that Jesus was talking about mourning over our sinful nature; not just loss. In response to understanding our brokenness, we may be sad. But it allows us to see our desperate need for God and that if our sin is not addressed, it keeps us from Him. The separation from God, due to sin, is worthy of mourning.
The true good news is that God has provided a way to maneuver through the mourning of sin towards Him. It is belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that by accepting that free gift, we can have the offered grace and forgiveness of our sins. The way to happiness is often through sadness. The road to rejoicing is often through mourning. When you come to the cross, you full comprehend just how happiness and mourning can co-exist.
Each year the anniversary of Khobar Towers is hard for hundreds of families, friends, and survivors. As I keep in mind their hearts, I am grateful for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I remember them…and pray they have comfort.