June 27, 2012

Stations of a Different Cross

V. Her tears run down her cheeks.
R. And she has none to comfort her.
from the 13th Station

I visited the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan today, set on the footprint of the fallen towers. I'd not been there since the time I spent as a volunteer chaplain at St Paul's Chapel. The memorial is profoundly moving, in an appropriately secular way. But I could not help but think that this monument will serve as a kind of civic Way of the Cross to memorialize a great tragedy that befell this city, and the fields of Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. Grief washes down into those dark shadowed pits, as the old Anglo-Saxon lament put it, "under night-helm." This morning's Hebrew Scripture reading at Morning Prayer told of the reaction of the people to the punishment of Dathan, Abiram and Korah, when they and their families went alive down into Sheol. Anger is not the best response to wrong, even great wrong. Anger continues to wound. Grief can heal.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Deacon Charlie Perrin said...

I was there that day. the law firm I worked for as a computer network manager had its home office on the 85th floor of the north tower. I wasn't in the office at the time of impact because of bad subway service. My E train got stuck behind an F train with brake trouble in Queens. Normally I would have been there and in the computer room.

The Managing Partner was there sitting at his desk. When the plane hit (about 6 or 7 floors above our office) he said the building must have swayed 20 feet. The computer room had a lot of heavy equipment on shelves. With an impact like that it must have been a death trap.

A stalled subway train saved my life that morning.

By the time I got to the WTC stop the first plane had hit the building probably minutes before. On leaving the station we could all see the hole in the side of the building with some debris raining down.

Before I started heading uptown, I saw people jumping or falling from the floors above the impact. None of us there new what was really happening at the time, other than the fact that a plane had hit the building.

I had managed to get a few blocks north on Church St. when there was a huge explosion (the second plane). those of us on the street ducked into a Burger King to avoid the shrapnel; a second escape from harm.

That evening there was an ecumenical prayer service at the local Roman church. I was asked to lead the prayers.

I prayed, not only for the lost and the survivors, but for the hijackers as well. The souls of those who could commit such a monstrous act were, I felt, in the greater peril.

Gwendolyn R. Chambrun said...

Thank you, Tobias, for a beautiful and moving reflection. I shared it on Facebook!

Erika Baker said...

Thank you.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, all. Deacon C., I have a parishioner who had a similar experience. He worked in one of the concourse stores, but the day before was assigned to a different branch.

What flows and eddies of life preserve or end our lives? What unknown paths, invisible to us, limn out before, around us? All is in God's hand, our life, our death; all is under and within that life beyond life and death.