Where was God on 9/11?
Judy A Bauman
Eleven days after terrorists flew two commercial airliners full of passengers into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center (WTC), I found myself walking through the ash and debris at “Ground Zero” in New York City. I remember, and will never forget the surreal magnitude of the scene.
I traveled to NYC to serve as a volunteer at the emotionally charged Family Assistance Center. The night of my arrival, I went to a service at Faith Tabernacle where I met a local Christian woman who offered accompany me to Ground Zero the following day. Our goal was to pray over the City. As I waited for her the next morning at a local cafe, I noticed many weary police officers were also there grabbing a quick bite and cup of coffee. One officer I spoke with told me that he had not had a day off since the attacks, they were all pulling double shifts, and he had not even been home to see his wife and three children! While he held onto his strong NYPD persona, I could see the toll the past 11 days had taken on him. I told him I would be praying for him as he headed out the door and he thanked me.
Just then, my new friend came in and we took the subway into Lower Manhattan. As we emerged from the depths of the subway, a horrible stench met us. Pungent smoke permeated the atmosphere from the fire, which had been burning since the attacks. A thick layer of white ash covered everything in sight. Stores stood motionless; and the merchandise inside looked more like monuments than everyday goods. A cacophony of wailing sirens and deep growls from the machinery echoed off the city walls. The nation watched with anticipation as frantic and exhausted workers cleared the wreckage searching for survivors.
Under the safety of a temporary corridor, a throng of onlookers moved like one giant body. We collectively came to a halt as each of us gasped at the horrendous panorama of the WTC’s skeletal remains. Even though we had seen it unfold for days on TV, we could only look in bewilderment at the massive ruins and destruction set before us. Some observers had to stop and steady themselves. Most looked at each other with tears of disbelief; some screamed in dismay and wept uncontrollably. The sheer magnitude of it, even though we had seen it on the news, was shocking. The ability to hear, think, or feel had left us.
Several city blocks away from the daunting work at Ground Zero, some of Lower Manhattan was open to the public. My guide pointed out the building of her displaced church. It, along with many of the buildings at Ground Zero, had destabilized foundations because of the massive building collapses. Authorities were determining whether repairs were possible, or if the structures around the WTC would need demolishing. We stopped and especially prayed for her church, but also over the other huge buildings thought to be at risk. When we finished, we looked up and were shocked to find no one else was in the vicinity! It was eerie. The surrounding buildings sheltered us from the noise, causing “the City that never sleeps” to be unnervingly quiet! In a hushed whisper, my companion revealed as a native of NYC, she had never experienced such deafening silence in her lifetime. The City was indeed in mourning. Block after block we took in all we saw as we slowly walked through it. Sometimes we prayed together, but mostly we prayed under our breath. When we ran out of words, we prayed in the spirit.
This deserted area of Lower Manhattan left its mark on my soul. Many vehicles sat abandoned in the streets – shrouded in thick ash. Parking garages full of cars were not exempt. The white powdery substance covered everything. Oddly, inside one parking garage we saw anomalous objects, like pieces of office equipment and furniture. We tried to imagine how office furniture could land deep inside the covered parking garage. It didn’t seem physically possible. One car was so violently jolted out of its parking spot that its front-end hung outside the third level of the five-story garage! Sorrow hit our hearts like a dagger when we realized some of the vehicles belonged to victims. Even though we felt deep sorrow, the peace of God was as tangible as the blanket of silence and solitude that encircled us.
What I witnessed that day in the rubble of NYC reminded me of the overwhelming ruins of my own life before I asked Jesus to rescue me. For years, I rejected His help. He had been there holding out His hand, but I refused to take it. Like that car, my life was precariously perched, and the slightest shift could have caused me to plummet into total destruction. I knew I didn’t deserve God’s love, but He loved me anyway! Just as the workers at Ground Zero carefully removed a mountain of debris bucket by bucket, I know the Redeemer of my soul removed, and continues to remove, the ash from my life. If we will receive it, He truly will give beauty for ashes as Scripture promises.
Many people have asked me where my loving, faithful God was on 9/11, and I can safely say He was in the same place He was when Jesus went to the cross. Nothing surprises God. He knows the cost of giving mankind the gift of freewill. Some use their freedom to hurt innocent people, as the terrorists did on 9/11; others, like the public servants of NYC, use it to help souls in need, even at the cost of their own lives. I pray as you read this that you realize Jesus bought and paid for your sins with His own life. He chose to lay down His life because He wanted you to be reunited and reconciled to God the Father. It is for the sake of freedom Christ set us free! Everything changes when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. While life may not be easy, with God, all things are possible! The question is not so much, where is God in the day of tragedy, because He will never abdicate His throne; the questions we have should be addressed to the one who looks back at us in the mirror. Will we trust and have faith in God no matter what life throws at us? Will we remember to seek our Father, who is our Ever-present Help in times of trouble? Even if we forget, the Good News is that the Lord never forgets His love for us.