Feb. 20--EUREKA -- As the guest speaker at Eureka First Baptist Church on Sunday, Steve Scheibner urged the congregation to be stop being "someday saints" and become "borrowed-time believers."
He also asked them to work with "a sense of urgency, purpose and passion to further the cause of Jesus Christ" and to spread the word about the kingdom of God.
Urgency is something that Scheibner has felt ever since Sept. 11, 2001, when a plane he was scheduled to fly on as a pilot -- American Airlines Flight 11 -- crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center after being hijacked by terrorists.
It is a story he said, that God has "literally shoved me out the door to tell."
In 2001, Scheibner was a reserve pilot, which meant he filled in when other American Airlines pilots had to miss their scheduled flights for various reasons.
On Sept. 10 of that year, Scheibner logged in to his computer to find out if he would be needed the next day and saw that he had been assigned to Flight 11 as a copilot.
Under American Airlines' procedures back then, Scheibner explained, there was a short window of time after such an assignment when a more senior pilot could bump a reserve pilot from the slot.
And that's what happened.
Instead of Scheibner, Tom McGuinness was in Flight 11's cockpit, and he was among the 92 people on the Boeing 767 who died after it took off from Boston.
Like millions of other Americans, Scheibner watched television reports about what happened that morning in horror. In all, four planes were involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but for a while, Scheibner didn't realize that Flight 11 was among them.
"I don't have the words to describe that moment," said Scheibner of his reaction when he finally found out exactly what had happened. "It was an empty feeling, and there also was a whole mixture of emotions. You can't get angry, you can't get upset, you can't get sad, and you can't get happy. It was tough. God had given me a gift, but I also knew that someone else had died in place and another family was going through a horrible tragedy because of it."
In addition to being a pilot, Scheibner was a pastor at a church that he had helped start in Maine. Because of 9/11, Scheibner said, he eventually began to understand that God wanted his ministry to expand far beyond one house of worship.
That's why, Scheibner said, he listened when God told him, "I need you to go anywhere and every place I call you to go to and tell your story."
Scheibner is still an American Airlines employee, and he now flies Boeing 777s.
"Why did God leave me and take someone else? There is no good answer to that question," Scheibner said. "But because I was the one who was left behind, I do know there is an obligation that comes with that."
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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