With the fifth anniversary of September 11th upon us, I'm going to post a 911 story of faith, hope and love everyday this week. I, along with our church, had the great privilege of ministering at Ground Zero and throughout New York City for almost a year after the attacks. I hope these stories let you in to another side of 911, where God was actively working in people's lives. The first is the story of the Ground Zero cross.
When laborer Frank Silecchia found a perfect twenty-foot cross in the rubble of the fallen towers three days after the atttaks, he cried for twenty minutes. “When I first saw it, it took my heart," Silecchia said. "It helped me heal the burden of my despair, and gave me closure on the whole catastrophe." He found the cross standing straight up surrounded by other smaller crosses as he was looking for bodies in the rubble. Workers placed the cross on a forty foot foundation where many went regularly to meditate and pray. Somebody etched into it "God Bless Our Fallen Brothers."
Is this a miracle of God? “Some people will say it's velocity or physics that put it there. To me it's an act of God.” said Silecchia. The worldwide press, including the Jewish World Review reported on the cross as a symbol of hope found in the middle of so much sadness and destruction.
While some might ask where was God in this disaster, others were seeing the presence of God coming out of the midst of the rubble. "There's no symmetry to anything down there," an FBI chaplain said, "except those crosses."
Because of our relief and response involvements at Ground Zero, we were privileged to bring visitors on to the "Bush Platform" inside of the areas closed off to the public. The "Bush Platform" was the wooden structure constructed for the president to address the Ground Zero workers when he made his famous "I can hear you!" speech. From the platform you could view all of the damage from the attacks and fallen towers. In the early days after the attacks, the 'pile' as it was known, was still smoldering and smoking. The dust, the smells, the smoke, the massive destruction left all who entered speechless and usually somewhat confused, if not angry. But everybody that saw the cross inside of Ground Zero was somehow moved by it. Even comforted by it.
One day while on the platform with a NBA basketball team I pointed out the cross to one of the towering players. I told him the story of how it was found and how workers, firefighters, police and others working on 'the pile' would gather there for prayer services. This monster of a man was moved to tears. He told a team mate who told a team mate who told a team mate. Soon this whole team of giants were all looking, some kneeling, some crying, some calling their mothers on their cell phones to tell them there was a cross in the rubble of Ground Zero. But all were visibly, and some physically, moved the sight of a simple steel cross found in the rubble.
There is no denying there is a power in the symbol of a cross and there is definitely something about that cross. As bewildering as it was to be inside of Ground Zero trying to sort the whole situation out, the cross somehow brought a peace to all who saw it standing there.
God has not left us alone or without hope. And sometimes he grants us visible reminders. In a world that sometimes seems to make no sense, God continues to show He is there and that He cares. The cross continues to be a symbol of hope.
Come back each day this week for another story of faith, hope and love coming out of the rubble of Ground Zero. The devil never wins. God still rules.