Remembering 9/11

fdny-riderless-horse-closing-ceremony-2002How many of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001?

We Americans have an interesting way of setting things in context. When reflecting on major historical occurrences we will say something like “I remember where I was when I heard that…” This is our way of saying that the event made such an impact that it is indelibly etched in our memories.

Virtually everyone I’ve talked with over the past fifteen years has vivid recollections. Most also report they were glued to their televisions, watching “wall-to-wall” news coverage. I remember watching these dramatic stories unfold at our new home in Hockessin, Delaware, thinking that it was all happening within a very short distance from where I was. The range of emotions I was experiencing was incredible. I kept thinking: There must be something I can do.

Not long after the rescue efforts became recovery efforts, the Salvation Army, which did a stellar job in responding to the needs at Ground Zero in New York City, reported their chaplaincy staff was being stretched beyond their capacities. They told authorities there was a need for additional chaplains to provide immediate relief. They also needed to augment their staff for the long haul.

The Chapel of Four Chaplains in Philadelphia responded to this need. Through the capable leadership of then Executive Director Fred Honigman an ancillary relief effort was launched. He contacted media outlets in Philadelphia who assisted him in putting out an urgent call for clergy with the appropriate skill sets and training to serve as chaplains at Ground Zero to contact the Chapel. After responding to this plea, I was privileged to be selected to become part of this group.

We were rushed through appropriate refresher courses in trauma counseling, critical incident stress management and vicarious traumatization, to name a few. To the best of my recollection, members of this group were serving at Ground Zero by late September. My first occasion to serve was in early October.

I’ve not said or written a lot about my involvement in this work, mainly because I do not want to be seen as one who would seek to capitalize on the traumatic experiences of others. I see this as completely inappropriate. Besides, in comparison to what others who were there day-in-and-day-out, my experiences are actually not that compelling. On the first anniversary of 9/11 I did write an essay titled From Ground Zero. You can read these thoughts by clicking here. The photograph you see on this page is one that I took at the closing ceremony in 2002. Near the five year anniversary of 9/11, the Christian Chronicle ran an article in their “features” section which touches on my work at Ground Zero. Erik Tryggestad is the author of this piece.

As I think of all of the things that have transpired over the past fifteen years, my heart remains heavy. There is so much strife in the world. There are so many who harbor so much anger towards others. It does not seem as though the world has become a better place. Thus, my spirit is vexed. What kind of world are we creating for our grandchildren?

I often reflect on the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and echo these sentiments in my prayers. Here we read: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (NLT)

In addition, a prayer crossed my desk that seems to speak to the need of our time. The author is unknown. It seems to be in harmony with God’s will. I call it A Prayer for Humanity. If it expresses the desire of your heart I invite you to pray this prayer along with me and millions of others:


May God lead us from death to life,

from falsehood to truth.

May God lead us from despair to hope,

from fear to trust.

May God lead us from hate to love,

from war to peace.

May peace fill our hearts,

our world, and our universe.


© Bill Williams, a fellow sojourner
September 10, 2016