Tag Archives: World Trade Center

The World Trade Center

world trade

Today is the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attach on the World Trade Center in New York City, September 11, 2001. Like many others I remember where I was then. I watched the towers fall from a rooftop in Union City, New Jersey, just across the river. Many from that area died that day and as the days went on their bodies were recovered and they were buried in nearby churches. A frightful time.

About a year later, I went to an exhibit about the attack called “Recovery,” at the New York Historical Society. The exhibition rooms were filled with debris from the tragedy: parts of smashed police cars and fire engines–I remember a little child’s doll, parts of one of the planes that crashed into the buildings. A black and white film of the disaster played silently in one section of the exhibit. Grim reminders of that awful day.

It was the exhibit’s opening day and media people were there. One of them came up to me with a notebook in hand. “What do you think of this?” he said. I had my clerical collar on so he knew who I was.

I told him I really couldn’t put into words what I thought. It was an overwhelming picture of evil.

He wrote what I had to say in his notebook and then put it in his pocket and said, “You know I don’t believe in evil.” That began a conversation that lasted for a hour or so.

I asked him first of all why he didn’t believe in evil, so evident here.

“Yes, this is bad,” he said, “ but we can change the way people behave. We can rinse out the evil in them by giving them a better world.” How? “Science and technology can change the world,” he said, “we can give people what they want and give them all they need.”  Later I found out that he was a writer specializing in science and technology

“Do you believe in God?” “No, I don’t,” he said. “In fact, it would be better to get rid of God altogether. And that goes for religion too. Get rid of it. The fanaticism of religion was responsible for this.”

At the end of our conversation, it seemed to me his hope about creating a better world through science and technology seemed naïve and unreal. Even if everyone in the world were given a new iPhone, his kind of thinking doesn’t seem to be the answer. Evil is hard to rinse out of our world.

In a post-modern world, optimism about science and the rationalism that came with the Enlightenment seems on the decline and nothing is taking its place. Post modernism is against everything from the past, including religion and religious truth.

Today, in the New York Times, there was a story about St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, destroyed in the World Trade disaster and now being rebuilt in the World Trade complex. An icon of Christ within the church will be visible even in the dark. A good sign.

The World Trade Cross

I’m not sure what they’ll do with the Cross at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street,  salvaged from the ruins of the World Trade site after September 11, 2001, but it would be sad to lose the wisdom that mystery offers. We need it.

After Jesus Christ crossed over to the Garden of Gethsemane that Thursday evening centuries ago, he began his hard journey to death by praying in the garden.  Jesus faced  “the primordial experience of fear, quaking in the face of the power of death, in terror before the abyss of nothingness that makes him tremble to the point that, in Luke’s account, ‘his sweat falls to the ground like drops of blood.’ (Luke 22,44)”

He faced an unnatural death that caused a “ particular horror felt by him who is Life itself before the abyss of the full power of destruction, evil, and enmity with God that is now unleashed upon him, that he now takes directly upon himself, or rather into himself, to the point that he is ‘made to be sin’ ( 2 Cor 5.21)… Because he is the Son, he sees with total clarity the whole foul flood of evil, all the power of lies and pride, all the wiles and cruelty of the evil that masks itself as life yet constantly serves to destroy, debase, and crush life.” (Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2, Benedict XVI)

The World Trade Center Tragedy wasn’t caused by an earthquake, a hurricane, some natural cause. Human beings caused it, just as human beings were responsible for the passion and death of Jesus.

Jesus disciples took up their swords when his enemies came to arrest him in the garden, but he told them, “Put your sword into its place. Those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” After ten years of wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, it might be time to put up our swords too.

You can’t fight evil by violence.

We live in a time that has largely forgotten the Passion of Jesus, but it’s still the wisdom and power of God. We shouldn’t put the Cross aside.