I was recovering from my last round of chemotherapy. My hair was starting to grow back, but I was still weak from my recent battle with breast cancer. I had just stepped out of a shower and slowly starting my day when my husband called me from work and told me to turn on the T.V. telling me that there was a catastrophic plane crash in New York City. I tuned in just in time to see the second plane careen into the World Trade Centre. It’s one of those scenes you never forget in your lifetime.
On Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists hijacked four passenger jets, each carrying tanks full of fuel and large numbers of travelers enroute to various destinations in the U.S. The hijackers commandeered the planes and deliberately flew to U.S. landmarks where catastrophic destruction was achieved: The World Trade Centre in NYC and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, just north of Camp David, the Presidential Retreat in Maryland. Their efforts to destroy yet another U.S. landmark that day was thwarted by the heroic passengers on that plane. Thousands of people were killed; property damage estimated in the billions of dollars, and yet, the world remembers today the countless acts of heroism and bravery by ordinary people who exemplified the human spirit and did extraordinary things!
As a Canadian watching the drama unfold, I was overcome with emotion for my brothers and sisters in the U.S. Words cannot adequately describe the shock and horror I felt on their behalf. Later that afternoon, I gathered with many of my American friends who live and work here in Cochrane. We met at our church and we wept and prayed, clinging to one another, drawn together in mutual grief over the tragic events of that day.
In 2008, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit NYC. We had never been to the “Big Apple” before so in three short days, we tried to take in as many of the sights as we could in that amazing city. Of course, one of the places we wanted to see was “Ground Zero”, the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre once stood. Despite the fact it was over seven years after 9/11, I felt a haunting solemnity in approaching the site. The rebuilding was starting there, most of the rubble had been cleared away, and yet it was like thousands of voices were whispering in the wind: “Don’t ever forget about us!”
Across the street from Ground Zero stands St. Paul’s Chapel. It is one of the oldest churches in NYC. Though situated directly across the street from the World Trade Centre, St.Paul’s Chapel miraculously sustained little damage. The massive Sycamore trees, hundreds of years old, took most of the impact and shielded the tiny building from the flying debris when the Twin Towers collapsed. As a result, not a single pane of the precious stained glass was broken.
Days after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, families of the victims came to the church to grieve and receive comfort while they awaited news of loved ones who were missing or searching under the rubble of the World Trade Centre. Later they put up memorials in tribute to those who lost their lives that day. Each memorial has been left standing and lovingly maintained by the church, and the small congregation now serves and ministers to those families who suffered such loss on that fateful day.
Tributes were also sent from around the world for all the brave firefighters, police, port authority personnel and rescue teams who risked their own lives to save those trapped after the initial attack. Unfortunately many of the numbered dead are those men and women who responded first to the emergency.
As my husband and I silently, reverently, passed by each display of tribute to those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion.
As we returned to our hotel, we reflected on what we had just seen at Ground Zero and later walking through the theatre district and around Times Square, I was struck by how NYC had managed to rise above the ashes on that day. As I thought about how that little church surrounded by Sycamore trees had been shielded and protected from harm on Sept. 11, 2001, a scripture verse came to mind:
“To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:3
“Trees of Righteousness”… may it always be so!