I was reading this morning about an effort by an atheist group to remove a steel cross from the 911 memorial under construction at Ground Zero. The cross is a piece of mangled steel pulled from the 911 wreckage. We saw it in New York City this spring before it was moved to the museum site this week.
To the atheist group all I can say is, “Have you been to Ground Zero?” Seriously, I’m with the memorial committee on this one. Their response to the group’s lawsuit yesterday was this: “It’s a symbol of spiritual comfort for the thousands of recovery workers who toiled at Ground Zero.” And I agree. The cross is one of the many tangible articles people latched onto for comfort during those early days after the 911 attacks. If you visit the site, you’ll see that.
When we toured that area this spring, we had a guide, and I highly recommend that. It was a far more meaningful experience than it would have been if we had simply pulled up in a bus, hopped off for a look see and a few pictures and headed off to Times Square. Our guide was a lifelong New Yorker who used to work in that part of the city.
We started our tour at St. Paul’s Chapel, a fascinating centuries old church that has stood undamaged through historical fires that wiped out everything else in that area and was literally untouched by the fall of the Twin Towers. It feels like a very sacred place, from the very old cemetery out back:
To the items inside that are left over from those days after the attacks when emergency workers were housed, fed and cared for in that small church:
There are prayer cards of folks lost in the rubble, and they were a very vivid reminder to me of those days right after the towers fell when people stood in the street with pictures of their loved ones, desperately looking for family and friends.
We also spent time around the corner at St. Peter’s Church where firefighters laid Father Judge’s body on the altar after they pulled him from the rubble. And of course, we watched the rebuilding that is taking place down there.
Everywhere you look at Ground Zero; there are clues as to how strongly people clung to faith to get through that horrible event. Whether you believe in God or not, you simply can’t deny that it played a role in recovery. To the American Atheists I say quit trying to rewrite history. Like it or not, some of us are God fans, and you can’t change that.
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