By Karen Schwaner Sheehy
Last month, I joined my mother, sisters-in-law, and niece for a three-day trip to New York. Our “girl time” included a trip to the Met, Rockefeller Center, and the Broadway musical, Anastasia. My high point, however, was our trip to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, commemorating the loss and slow recovery process following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Encompassing the Twin Tower footprints are two outdoor memorial pools, each 1-acre in size. Called Reflecting Absence, their disappearing waterfalls are meant to symbolize the physical, spiritual and emotional void left by these attacks. As I walked around the pool edges, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of names engraved on their bronze parapets. Included were the 2,977 Sept. 11th victims and the 6 individuals killed during the 1993 bombing.
“Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” (NM 11:29).
Within the museum itself, visitors encounter personal testimonies, pictures and information about each of the victims. As I looked at the face of each victim, I said a prayer on their behalf and begged for the spirit of the Lord to rest upon the hearts of those left behind. Men, women, children, people from various walks of life, nations, and religious groups, all were represented in the faces of the fallen. Yes, tragedy strikes all, but so does the unexplainable love, courage, and hope of those filled with the spirit of the Lord.
The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever (PS 19:8)
Located just steps away from Ground Zero, is St. Paul’s Chapel, a small Episcopal church where George Washington once prayed. This popular, historical landmark has its own miraculous 9/11 story to tell, a story about a 100-year-old fallen sycamore tree and the undeniable power of God. This tree, uprooted by a huge falling steel beam, covered up and saved this small house of God, its beautiful stained glass windows, and surrounding grave sites. Many will recall the palpable hope and healing found within its hallowed walls, as it became a center and sacred refuge for multitudes of rescue workers, survivors, and loved ones in search of missing family members.
This little chapel has a miraculous history, indeed. Not only did it survive the Sept. 11th attacks but also the Great Fire of 1776. Today, St. Paul’s remains a beacon of light, love and compassion for individuals impacted by Sept. 11th, the less fortunate, and neighborhood homeless.
Also surviving the 9/11 attack was a small pear tree planted in the vicinity of Church Street during the 1970s. Pulled out of the rubble in October of 2001, it was badly burned and not expected to live. After years of rehabilitation, it was returned to the site of the World Trade Center. Today, it too, has become a visible symbol of hope and rebirth.
How could this house of God survive, not only one, but two disasters, especially when the world around seemed to crumble down? Have these outward signs and miracles made a lasting impression on the people of New York and the world? Has the unity, love and compassion found amidst this unspeakable tragedy endured? Perhaps these questions, and similar ones impacting your own life story, are appropriate to ask when pondering today’s readings.
About the author:
Karen Sheehy is a devout Catholic, wife and mother, motivational speaker, blogger, president of a non-for-profit, and developer of spiritualsafariguide.com, your passport to a world of spiritual inspiration and understanding. To learn more about Karen Sheehy and her newly released book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, please visit http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com
St. Paul’s Chapel and One World Trade Center. Picture taken by Karen Schwaner Sheehy, July 28, 2018. Used with permission. All rights reserved.