Saturday, 10 September 2011

Remembering 9/11

The answer is: in a carpet shop in Staines, UK. 

The question has been posed on at least three media forums this week - the 'where were you when ...'. A man called Barry (whom I had not met before and not seen since, as I was only in Staines for the day), came into the shop to tell us all that two planes had flown into the World Trade Centre. Our response was in the perhaps understandable vein - "don't be stupid". People just didn't do things like that. 

But they did. 

By the time I had driven from Staines back to Crawley, the Towers has fallen on top of the rescue services and had vapourised many hundreds of innocent people. In the aftermath, a mere ten percent of the bodies were recovered. Oddly, at the time, the terrorist attack on New York's financial heart was too great to take in so, so I received the images like so many Schwarzenegger films. I took it in a little and never really absorbed it. The image above was the first of the hours of news-fed imagery that I saw of the terrible events unfolding. 

As a decade turns fully, I find myself more affected by the event than I did on the day itself. 9/11 did change the world and many many thousands of people have died in its wake, with declarations of war, their reprisals, and the ripple-effects that accompany them. The planes that were flown full speed into the WTC are the same as pass by my house now, so close to my home and my children. I have found myself wondering what must have passed as thought for the poor souls unto whose windows those planes were directed. Then there were those who, so desperate as they were, threw themselves over a hundred stories to their deaths - falling for countless seconds, seeing their end approach them at terminal velocity. 

So many innocent people. So many innocent rescuers caught up and killed by their duty and their love for their fellow humans. So many families left to grieve. 

I once stood at the foot of one of the Towers and looked up. They touched heaven, I thought. Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the day when the world turned differently. It seems that Bin Laden did his work well as it is quite clear to me that this catastrophe was merely the Overture. Ours is, in many ways, a frightened and suspicious world where people's visible differences are cause for concern. Ours is a world where anything is now possible - even terrible and audacious things. Without doubt, ours is a more violent world where the near-three thousand deaths of 9/11 will eventually (if not already) seem small by comparison with the continuing deaths that happen in the name of the events all those years ago.

I pray earnestly that we can take the example of the fire-fighters, the ambulance crews, the sole chaplain, the passers-by - and remember that even in the darkest of moments, light can be found. It is the light that will, in the annals of history, be the remarkable story to tell. 

May God bless those who died on that darkest of days, or in the days that followed. I pray for their families too, for whom the next few hours may be among the worst - again. Amen


  1. I had just arrived at our annual clergy school ro be greeted by the news. as well as all the examples you give, I can't help thinking what it must have been like for the passengers on the planes too - so rudely torn from a should-have-been-routine flight.

    A few days after 9/11, in response to my anxious email, I received a reply from a friend who lives and works in NY, enclosing a photos of his parents on top of the South Tower, taken on the afternoon of September 10th. I still find it almost unbearably poignant to look at.

  2. I wish you well in your new Ministry.

    You might care to read the story of Father Mychal Judge who was the first casualty of 9/11 recorded by the Coroner. He was a chaplain to the New York Fire Brigade. He died after giving last rites to a victim outside the North Tower then went inside where he was last seen praying before being killed by falling masonry. The recovery of his body is a famous photo and is known as the American Pieta.

    He should be a worthy inspiration to you in your Ministry



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