On the corner of Broadway and Fulton street in New York City is a sacred place. For eight months after 9/11, hundreds of volunteers from all over the United States worked 12 hour shifts around the clock at St. Paul’s Chapel. There, meals were served, beds were made, counseling was given, and prayers were lifted up with firefighters, construction workers, and law enforcement.
I had the privilege of visiting this chapel on a sunny day back in May of 2006 almost 5 years after 9/11. I was one of a few brave adult chaperones who gave up a week to go to NYC with a bunch of seventh graders that included my oldest daughter. That visit to St. Paul’s was my favorite, most meaningful experience from my very first visit to NYC. Not the famous park. Not the famous skyscrapers. Not even the Broadway play Wicked.
I entered the graveyard which led into the chapel. I was not prepared for my tears as I quietly walked into that holy place. Candles were lit. Reverence was felt. I read the notes from fire fighters and construction workers pinned to the wall. I grabbed the chapel bulletin to take home to staple in journal #31 so I would never forget that spiritual experience.
During my visit, I silently asked… “God, where were you during 9/11?” Thousands of lives were not spared at the World Trade Center. Sixty-four souls on Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, also killing the 125 people inside that building. Forty souls on Flight 93 crashed down in rural Pennsylvania. Women who previously had Mrs. attached to their names were given the new role of widows. Bright-eyed boys and girls with shiny futures instantly became fatherless and motherless.
Even though God gets blamed for everything, He also suffered. From The North Face of God, Ken Gire writes, “Jesus could bear the pain of the nails, the thorns, the beatings. He could bear the public humiliation, the personal ridicule. He could bear the betrayal, the desertion, the denial of his friends. But the abandonment of God he could not bear.” From the cross Jesus loudly cried out, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!” Where was God during 9/11? In the middle. As Jesus hung on the cross he was in the middle, between two criminals who were also crucified. Mercy in the middle. Jesus is in the middle of the suffering still experienced by the survivors from 9/11. He is also in the middle of your suffering.
Gire continues, “For those whose lives have been shattered by loss, there is no place in the Scriptures as hospitable as the Psalms and in that book David wrote: “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” (13:1-2a NLT) Will you pray for the survivors of 9/11?
pictures courtesy of “Nelson & his Nikon”