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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Remembering 9/11: Reflections at Ground Zero

Hannah Goodwyn - Senior Producer

Eighteen years ago, the surreal video millions saw on the news was devastating, yet distant for many Americans. But to some, the September 11th attack was an unforgettable day because a loved one was killed.

Out of respect for those who died and those they left behind, I went to the fifth anniversary ceremony held at Ground Zero. What I saw there is forever seared in my memory.

With our flag at half mast, mourners gazed through a metal fence at the site where only the frame of one of the towers still stood in the shape of a cross. Photographs memorializing the loss of precious life and how New York’s finest responded hung near the World Trade Center train station. Police officers from New South Wales marched into the site to pay tribute, and a young woman stood amongst thousands softly playing “Amazing Grace” on her flute. Friends and families wore homemade T-shirts bearing the image of their loss.

Walking around the fenced pit where the 110-story twin towers once stood, I saw many things, many people. I’ll never forget one middle-aged woman who passed by me. With tears flowing freely down her cheeks, she took deliberate steps facing forward, not looking to the site that represented such loss. I felt ill, like someone had taken my breath away. A part of her pain rubbed off on me.

Moments later, when she was long gone, off to her office somewhere in Manhattan’s financial district, my mind flooded with questions. What happened to her that day? Which of the thousands dead did she mourn for?

That’s when it really hit me. She was just on her daily commute to work. Thousands of visitors were walking by a tomb that she was forced to reckon with every weekday morning and evening as she went home. We were faced with the reality of such a loss at the fifth anniversary, but she had to endure revisiting the horrors again and again.

Soon, the sounds of bagpipes and drums filled the empty space of the square-shaped hole in lower Manhattan when the ceremony began that Monday morning in 2006. Moments of silence quieted the city block at the first hit, the second, at the first tower falling, and when the second crumbled down. A familiar, assuring voice that comforted New York and spoke to the world took the microphone. Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani in a somber tone said, we should remember “those who innocently went to work that day, and the brave souls that went in after them.”

For hours, the victims’ family members spoke each name. All those in earshot of the loud speakers heard the news that one of the victims was now a grandfather. Fiancées called out the name of their love lost. A heartbroken wife says she’ll never forget her husband, one of a group of New York City firefighters they call the "Seven in Heaven." After a name was spoken, I repeated it to engrain it in my mind so I wouldn’t forget the loss everyone suffered.

I couldn’t hold back the tears from my eyes. The saltiness of my cry left a bitter taste in my mouth and heart. How could people deal with such pain? How could they possibly go on?

That’s when my cry became, "God help these people. Be their life-giving source when they are too weak to take another breath."

It’s been 18 years, but some are still trying to move on with their lives. There's still pain, hurt, confusion, and grief. It takes time to heal. Even these years later, as believers in the One who gives us peace, we should continue to pray.

Honor those who died by remembering there was a face, distinct beloved personality, a precious life to each name uttered at Ground Zero.

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