On Sept. 11, I pause to consider my own journey toward healing and ponder where the United States is as a nation.
have two frames of reference for this day, which marks the second
anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and
Pennsylvania. First, I served in November 2001 for a week in New York
City as a disaster team chaplain for the Red Cross and a chaplain for
the United Methodist Committee on Relief disaster team. Second, as both a
survivor of a murder in my family and a chaplain who counsels murder
"co-victims," I have learned a lot about bereavement and its effects and
While I had a myriad of healing experiences during
my week in New York, nothing moved me more profoundly than visiting the
World Trade Center site itself in the daytime and then again at night. I
cried both times for my wounded neighbors.
The sheer weight of
grief overwhelmed me as I stood before picture after picture, letter
after letter from family members hoping to find loved ones alive in the
wreckage. The pictures were taped to walls, fences and posts surrounding
the sacred gravesite of the World Trade Center.
close to so many fallen neighbors, I prayed to God to heal the families
and to heal our land and all our people. I prayed that God would direct
our leaders to respond to this tragedy in ways that would prevent it
from happening again. I prayed that families could find parts of their
murdered loved ones in the rubble so they could have certainty for a
fitting memorial. I prayed for Father Mychal Judge, who died serving the
fire fighters, and for all the fire fighters, police and emergency
workers who valiantly gave their lives trying to save others.
was deployed to the Family Assistance Center at Pier 94, where I met
three people whose family members were murdered during the attacks. Each
survivor was helped by prayer, tears and touch.
One of the
three was Jewish and had come from Israel to America because he felt
unsafe near the Gaza strip where he had lived. His wife died in the
World Trade Center.
One worked in criminal justice, "putting
away murderers," and now was the same kind of victim as the people with
whom he worked on the job. His wife was killed.
The last of the three was a fireman whose brother was killed when the trade center towers collapsed.
was sent there to be with them, to listen, to be fully present, to pray
with and hear prayers from them, to allow their pain to ventilate in
open air with no resistance, so that God could hear it and heal it.
UMCOR team talked to people on the sidewalk outside a United Methodist
church near 14th Street. We put a table up on the sidewalk as a
listening post and offered free coffee and donuts and prayer leaflets.
As New Yorkers came by, we poured coffee for them and asked a simple
question, "How ya' doing since all this happened on Sept. 11?" Then we
listened for as long as it took. Some talked a long time and even went
into the church with us to pray. Some talked briefly.
One of the briefest conversations I had turned out to be the most profound.
young, female typist had been working a block away from the towers, and
on Sept. 11 she saw bodies cascading off the towers to the ground. That
experience led to acute stress syndrome, and she could not sleep
because of nightmares of bodies falling. She had flashbacks and panic
attacks. I gave her our resource list of counselors, but it was when I
looked at her and asked, "Would you like a word of prayer?" that she
After the prayer, she said she had not been able to
go to or reach God, and now she felt she had broken through again to
God. She thanked me seven times, and I had never been thanked seven
times by one person before.
As our nation pursues its war on
terrorism, I pray one prayer daily: that every day President George Bush
will be led by God to do the "righteous thing" most pleasing to God and
within God's will. Please join me praying for our president.
heal our land, we must have God's love in us. In these days of pluralism
and diversity, it is difficult to express God's love as revealed by my
own particular faith without offending or excluding some group or
individual. I think we should focus on what we have in common and our
common beliefs rather than on differences that divide us.
example, I cannot find one religion that disagrees with the Great
Commandment of Deuteronomy 6:5: "You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." Many
of the 29 million atheists, agnostics and secular people in North
America can agree with Leviticus 19:18: "Love your neighbor as
Finally, I pray for our nation and for those who have
been victimized by murder before and after Sept. 11. I pray for God to
heal us all.
*Cook is a United Methodist minister serving as director and chaplain of the Crime Victims Advocacy Council in Atlanta.
provided by United Methodist News Service do not necessarily represent
the opinions or policies of UMNS or the United Methodist Church.