This is the second of three blogs I am re-posting in commemoration of September 11th, 2001. I remember it like yesterday…
I just thought I had problems. When I woke up early on September 11th, 2001, I could not bend over to tie my shoes. A ruptured disc on my back stemming from an injury in 1988 was destroying any hint of flexibility. I thought I was going to have to ask one of the hotel maids to assist me. I had stayed overnight in Oklahoma City to be with some dear friends in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit at OU Medical Center. Their 21 year old son had been critically injured a few days earlier in a car crash. I checked out of the hotel a few minutes later. While the clerk printed my receipt, I watched the World Trade Center go up in flames.
By the time I reached the hospital, there was a lot of nervous chatter among strangers on the elevator leading up to ICU. I ended up spending the day in a hospital waiting room with people who had loved ones in a trauma intensive care unit. All of their relatives were in very serious condition. It is hard to describe what it is like to experience a national tragedy with those who are no strangers to crisis. Natural bonds among people tend to be forged in setting like that. They look out for each other, inquire about the status of each other’s loved ones, and share goodies that friends bring. The added stress of a national threat in Oklahoma City of all places made the bond grow even deeper.
My friends lost their son. He died the next day on September 12th, 2001. I officiated at his funeral a few days later. He was a fine Christian gentleman who had been raised by the most wonderful parents imaginable. A nation was asking the “why” question a lot that week. A small gathering of family and close friends were doing the same thing in the trauma intensive care unit at OU Medical Center.
A number of my colleagues in law enforcement chaplaincy packed their bags and made the trip to New York. Some of them ministered to police officers and emergency workers at Ground Zero. Others were assigned to the morgue, and were asked to assist with death notifications. Their presence was needed. They made a huge difference, and their lives were changed forever.
I stayed home and served one family. I had no desire to be anywhere else. My capacity to feel for people in crisis increased substantially on September 11th, 2001. I spent the day with people who changed my life. I can tie my shoes again, for which I am grateful. I am thankful