Statement Concerning the Fifteenth Anniversary of September 11, 2001
This year is the fifteenth anniversary of the attack on America by Islamic terrorist in 2001. For some, the span of years has moved by quickly. Others have perceived a much slower passage of time, remembering a family member or friend who perished that Tuesday morning at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or on one of the aircraft used by the murderers as a weapon of mass destruction.
Some readers may remember, amid the rubble of the World Trade Center, a twenty-foot pair of steel beams in the shape of a cross found by Frank Silecchia, a worker at the site, two days after the attack. The beams, believed to be from the North Tower, became a memorial for the living to commemorate the dead from the attack. These steel beams are known as the World Trade Center Cross or the Ground Zero Cross. Nearly a month later, it was moved from Ground Zero so as not to interfere with the clean-up of debris. The Ground Zero Cross then found a temporary home at nearby St. Peter’s Church. This artifact now resides in the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. It is an object of comfort and hope to many from a day of such despair and tragedy.
The Chaplains might refer to another memorial; this memorial is mentioned in Joshua 4: 5-9:
“And Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in times to come saying ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day”.
As much as in the days of Joshua that these stones served as a memorial, so too does the Ground Zero Cross serve as a two-fold memorial to contemporary America: to Christians, it is a reminder that the cross of Jesus Christ can bridge the gulf between a people tainted by original sin and their Holy Creator. Simultaneously, it is a symbol of American hope and resilience in the war against Islamic terrorism. The ideologies of the cross and the terrorists stand as polar opposites. The cross is a symbol of God loving people enough to sacrifice His only Son in order to reconcile people with God. The beliefs of the terrorists are far different. They torture and brutally murder those who do not or will not submit to their religious views.
When you return home this evening, think for a moment about those who lost a love one or friend on that fateful day fifteen years ago. Think of all the Christmas celebrations and other holidays that were tinged with sadness by the loss, of the birthdays and anniversaries no longer celebrated because of the events of that day. Think of the children who are now in their teenage years who have no memory of a mother or father, grandparents, aunts or uncles who perished at one of the sites that day. May God grant these families comfort as our nation pauses to remember the events of September 11, 2001 and the lives lost because of the acts of the terrorists on that morning. May our nation also give the families the assurance that their deceased loved ones will be remembered collectively and not merely be consigned to the pages of a textbook in a chapter about early Twenty-First Century America.
Those that died that day were more than names on a passenger list or payroll spreadsheet. They were fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, uncles and aunts. The nation recognizes their deaths once a year. The surviving family members have lived with the loss each day for the past fifteen years. For some of these families, healing has taken place. For others, they are frozen in time. Everyday is September 11, 2001 to them.
If you are so inclined, say a prayer of comfort and healing for those whose hearts still have a
void for a deceased loved one tragically and ruthlessly taken from their families that day by the actions of the terrorists. You also might want to offer to God thanks for the loved ones you still have in your life and that your family has not suffered the loss of a member due to terrorism. Consider also praying for our current military personnel and law enforcement who are willing to offer up their own lives as a sacrifice to keep our country and communities safe.
William E. Plants
URG Chaplaincy Coordinator