Remembering 9/11

ground-zero-cross-by-bill-williams.JPGWe Americans have an interesting way of setting things in context. When reflecting on major historical occurrences we will say something like “I remember where I was when I heard that…” This is our way of saying that the event made such an impact that it is indelibly etched in our memories.

How many of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001?

Virtually everyone I’ve talked with over the past five years has vivid recollections. Most also report that they were glued to their televisions, watching “wall-to-wall” news coverage for days afterwards. I remember sitting in my chair watching these dramatic stories unfold and thinking that it was all happening within a very short distance from where I was. The range of emotions I was experiencing was incredible. I kept thinking: There must be something I can do.

Not long after the rescue efforts became recovery efforts the Salvation Army, which did a stellar job in responding to the scene in New York City, reported that their chaplaincy staff was being stretched beyond its capacities. They told authorities that there was a need for additional chaplains to provide immediate relief. They also needed to augment their staff for the long haul.

The Chapel of Four Chaplains in Philadelphia responded to this need. Through the capable leadership of then Executive Director Fred Honigman an ancillary relief effort was launched. He contacted media outlets in Philadelphia who assisted him in putting out an urgent call for clergy with the appropriate skill sets and training to serve as chaplains at Ground Zero to contact the Chapel. I responded. Shortly thereafter, I was privileged to be selected to become part of this group.

We were rushed through appropriate refresher courses in trauma counseling, critical incident stress management and vicarious traumatization, to name a few. To the best of my recollection, members of this group were serving at Ground Zero by late September. My first opportunity to serve was in early October. For a period of about eight months members of the Chapel of Four Chaplains documented four thousand hours of service at Ground Zero in New York City. The Chapel is currently in the process of developing a national organization designed to provided disaster chaplaincy services.

I’ve not said or written a lot about my involvement in this work, mainly because I do not want to be seen as one who would seek to capitalize on the traumatic experiences of others. I see this as completely inappropriate. Besides, in comparison to what others who were there day-in-and-day-out, my experiences are actually not that compelling. On the first anniversary of 9/11 I did compile an essay titled From Ground Zero. You can read these thoughts by clicking here. The photograph you see on this page is one that I took when my family visited the site in April of 2003.

Recently, the Christian Chronicle ran an article in their “features” section which touches on my work at Ground Zero. Erik Tryggestad is the author of this piece. One of my blogging friends encouraged me to post a link to this article. He said, “May I suggest you blog that link on your website? In that way your visitors can get to know you more personally.” So, at the suggestion of my buddy Mark, you can access this article by clicking here.

As I think of all of the things that have transpired over the past five years, my heart remains heavy. There is so much strife in the world. There are so many who harbor so much anger towards others. I often reflect on the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and echo these sentiments in my prayers. Here we read: 1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

In addition, a prayer recently crossed my desk that seems to speak to the need of our time. The author is unknown. The idea behind it is in my estimation in harmony with God’s will. I call it A Prayer for Humanity. If it expresses the desire of your heart I invite you to pray this prayer along with me and millions of others:



May God lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
May God lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
May God lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace.
May God fill our hearts, our world,
and our universe with peace.


© Bill Williams

September 8, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in 9/11, Blogroll, Christian Living, Dealing with Grief, disasters, HOPE, Personal. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Remembering 9/11

  1. looneybin4sure says:

    Hi Bill, I had come by your site a while back from Kiersten’s and though I have not commented, I had subscribed to your feed quite a while back and I read you on my google reader.

    It’s hard to believe that 5 years has gone by already. I do like that prayer you posted. I agree. Have a nice day.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Liz.

    I was just looking at and admiring your site. I really like the tribute you have posted. Hope you will stop by often and comment freely, ‘cuz any friend of Kiersten’s is a friend of mine!

    God bless,

  3. jel says:

    Dear Sir,
    a friend e-mail me ,about your story,

    and it really moved me , I’m not much on words , but thank you for sharing this with us!

    and I to like that prayer you posted !

    take care
    and God bless you and your family!

  4. bill says:

    I’m so glad you stopped by, jel. Thank you for your kind words, as well. I just popped over to your blog and must say that you have some extraordinary photographs posted there. Who needs words when pictures say it so much better?

    May God bless you and your family too,

  5. Greg England says:

    Bill, though we’ve already “talked” about this via email, I just wanted to say something that I failed to say earlier … Thank you for being there. Thank you for a heart that longed to offer something to those at Ground Zero. If you won’t say it, I will – you are among the heroes of post 9/11.

  6. Bill says:

    Thank you, brother. You are kind to say so.

    There are so many faces of heroes etched in my mind. These images are of people who were there when the attacks occurred and remained on the scene throughout the rescue and recorvery stages. They worked long and hard, often with very little rest. When I close my eyes and think of the heroes of 9/11, theirs are the faces that I see.

    To God be the Glory!

    Grace to you,

  7. Kathy says:

    Bill dear,

    Your work with the survivors and workers at ground zero touched my heart a few weeks ago when I explored a bit more on your site. Bless you, dear brother in Him, for all you have done and I know you continue to do.

    As you know, I wrote a short piece about the upcoming anniversary several weeks ago on my little blog. It seems to be weighing heavily on my heart this year, maybe due to the healing process coming along a bit more than had been the case.

    9-11 brought to the forefront flashbacks to the killer earthquakes I survived in Mexico City, also in September, but the 19th and 20th in 1985. The American Embassy calculated the deaths at over 25,000. Seeing the death and destruction on 9-11 and following days/weeks brought back all the sights and terror of the earthquakes so recovery from 9-11 has taken longer than to be expected. Emotions are still raw – and if they are for me I hate to think what they must be for survivors and non-survivor families, as well as all of you that toiled, labored so hard after the attack.

    My prayers have been that the crazy fanatics responsible for 9-11 will not take this 5th anniversary as a sign to bring about even worse tragedies, either here or abroad. I pray and beg the LORD’s hedge of safety around the innocents that would fall to such madness again.

    Bless you for being one of our heroes, Bill!!

  8. Angie says:

    I had just finished reading the Christian Chronicle article online & headed right over to the Oasis. THANK YOU for sharing your life with others and their stories with us.

    Admiration and love for your life…


  9. ksreyes says:

    Hi Bill,

    I’m so glad you and Liz linked up – now we just need to get Jared over here and the circle will be complete!

    This is a beautiful, heart wrenching post as well as the article written about you. But I especially love your photograph. How awesome is our God????? Amidst pain, death, fear, destruction, His mighty cross still stands reminding us of Him.

    My best friend was over last night for dinner (she brought – yeah for me!) and I was trying to describe all my blogging buddies to her. (She had her eyebrows raised a bit…) While Jared is my breath of fresh air; Liz is like a sister to me; you are just a huge, generous heart. I told her that you are always so welcoming and kind to anybody who visits and comments at your site. You epitomize that kind and gentle spirit of Christ to me. So, I guess I’m blessed to have you as part of my small circle of ‘cyber’ friends. Thanks!


  10. I saw you in the Chronicle and was thankful for your ministry. I probably will never forget that day as long as I live. I was watching it unfold like nearly everyone else when that second plane flew into the trade center.

    I share your prayer for humanity and I add “COME Lord Jesus.”

    Bobby Valentine

  11. Nick Secula says:

    Though I know you don’t want to , as you said in your email, look like your “tooting your own horn,” it certainly is refreshing to see someone and hear about someone giving themselves into a situation such as this. That day is a day engraved in my memory, a day I believe we will never forget. Though out of ashes many wonderful stories are being told of the human spirit and of people who’s heart reflect what Agape love is all about. God bless.

    For His Kingdom.

  12. cwinwc says:

    Although you’re not looking for any praise in your “9/11 experience,” I want to say thank you and tell you that I’m proud of the way you served our country (and our God) during this terrible tragedy.

  13. Bill says:

    Praise be to God, I am blessed with so many kind encouragers amongst my new found blogging friends. You are all deeply appreciated! -bill

  14. Dee Andrews says:

    Bill –

    More connections – you know I sent an email out to all of my friends from church, my family and all my wonderful Christian blogging friends after reading your article in the online version of Christian Chronicle. I also have the print version sitting here close by.

    Well . . . you aren’t going to believe this . . . my mom got my email Friday morning, read your story online from home in Abilene and immediately called me to tell me that my brother-in-law’s (sister’s husband in Abilene, also) aunt and cousin and his family, who they visit with often, lives in Keyes, Oklahoma where you’re from and he’s got to be about your age. Mom said Keyes is a very small place and she was excited about the connection. I’ve been up there close by to Hooker, Ok where my brother’s wife’s family lived for many years and she has relatives in or neear Keyes, as well.

    My mom can’t remember the cousin’s first name or his wife’s or daughters’ (she thinks the last name is Cullum and says they worship in Boise City, Ok in the cofC there). I’ll let you know after I’ve gotten hold of my sister.

    Ring any bells?

    Meanwhile – I was really happy to read your story and to learn more about you. Inspiring. AND – I left you a question to answer over at Donna’s blog . . ..

  15. Check your email, Dee. Also, I stopped in at Donna’s place and answered my pop-quiz.

    Blessings to you and yours,

  16. Jennifer says:

    Hi Bill,

    Great post. I was just stopping by to say hi and to let you know I am doing well. Since school started my life has been very hectic but good. Gone are the days of much free time to read blogs and write posts, unfortunately. That was replaced by a daily two hour commute, teaching 40 hours per week, and tutoring for ten hours. I am tired just thinking about it!

    I hope all is well with you.


  17. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Bill

    Good on your for sharing this. It’s an encouragement to all your readers!

    Bless you my friend,

  18. Greg England says:

    Bill, if you will move over for a moment, I just wanted to say to Jennifer that it’s good to see her back online. I’d wondered what happened to her.

  19. I want to echo Greg’s first comment. Thank you for being there, Bill.


  20. Kristine says:

    For me God is not a word, a color, a shade, a religion. God is a feeling, an emotion in action. And so reacts with and through our…prayer, meditation. and activity even as breath is the first breath of an infant or the last of the dying. So breathe people. Breathe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s