Monday, September 11, 2006

where I was on 9/11

I was still in seminary when the World Trade Center Towers fell five years ago. No other event during my years there moved my belief in God as powerfully as 9/11.

After the shock of it, what followed wasn’t doubt, but intense dismay: “Those people who went to work that morning did not deserve to die that way...Where were you??!!”

A few days later I was in my spiritual director’s office, angry: not hot anger...but an anger mixed with growing bewilderment.

I remember feeling that I did not need to hear from him what I perceived then as the “standard” answers: the meaning of the cross, suffering, God being present in the midst of that disaster.

I kept quiet as he explained and then just blurted out, “Those people died brutally! NO one deserves to die like that.”

Thank goodness he became still after that. He was correct of course, but at the immediate wake of the disaster that Tuesday, I instinctively felt that any “explanation” or “excuse” was just obscene.

In the face of such terrifying pictures from events thousands of miles away, yet seemingly so immediate and close, my impulse was to just take it all just stand there, still, not to explain it all away, not to answer it......but to just look at it…..stare…..witness it.

Five years later, looking back at my reactions then, I had somehow allowed my sharing in the hopelessness of some at that moment, even the anger, and the doubt of some in God’s own existence—“If you are, why this?” And for me this was good.

During the months and years that followed, I gradually recognized how the unsolicited “pat” answers I received from my spiritual director were the very ones that framed my subsequent reflections of the event and that predictably buoyed my spirits... “answers” that I had to set aside initially.

And so five years later someone today told me, “You know Father, it’s been five years, but I sometimes still have to ask myself: where was God?"

I merely looked at her and then thought to myself, "the Cross."

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