Few events have shocked us more than the coordinated attacks that occurred on Sept 11, 2001. Terrorists commandeered four airplanes and slammed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and into the Pentagon building in Washington, DC; a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. In the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, some found solace in a cross made of steel I-beams, an accidental symbol of God’s presence and comfort, that was uncovered in the rubble.
On Sept 13, two days after the towers collapsed, a recovery worker discovered the cross:
He had just helped pull three bodies from the rubble when he saw it there in dawn’s first light, standing in a sea of debris. A heavenly symbol in a hellish setting. A cross.
Exhausted and traumatized by his labors, the man dropped to his knees in tears. “It was a sign,” Frank Silecchia would recall, “a sign that God hadn’t deserted us.” (USA Today)
The “9-11 cross” became a symbol of hope and encouragement for many. Some made pilgrimages to pray before it, and left messages there. Makeshift worship services were held there.
One minister at the site says that when a family of a man who died in the attacks came to the cross shrine and left personal effects there, “It was as if the cross took in the grief and loss. I never felt Jesus more.”
(Cited by Wikipedia; the original article is no longer available).
After a few weeks in its original location, the cross was hoisted up onto a pedestal. A Roman Catholic Priest, Brian Jordan, blessed the makeshift monument and proclaimed, “This is our symbol of hope, our symbol of faith, our symbol of healing.” Jordan had lost a friend on 9-11, and had been struggling to cope with questions of why God had allowed this to happen. Like the worker who discovered it, the cross struck him also as being a message from God.
Today that cross, having survived a challenge from the American Atheists, is on display in the 9-11 Museum. For those of the Christian persuasion, it is part of an answer to the question, “where was God?” He was (and is) right there, with us, in the midst of suffering and death.