Unfathomable sorrow lay heaped upon the
One million tons of rubble at the World Trade Center.
The lamentations of heartache veiled us with
drapes of cheerless ash that had fallen upon the city streets.
Layers of inconsolable words parched our throats
as we gasped for ways to comfort those forlorn,
dumb with grief,
staring at the gravity of devastation
laminating a 16 acre field of pandemonium.
The sullen cortege from rescue to recovery
could not calculate the weight of sadness that sedated
hope within our souls
and besieged our determination to flex tireless muscles
in an around the clock attempt to
no longer trapped people,
to recover human remains
salvage the
human spirit.
In the lobby of Pier 94, the Family Processing Center
stood Bronna Butler’s portrait
The Rescue,
depicting an angel in a mixture of cloud and billowing smoke
reaching to lift the desperate hand of a woman from the upper floors of the tower.
It depicts a moment of peace and heaven in a citadel of hell.
Bronna provided me with several hundred postcards of the painting
which I mailed in a message of hope to friends around the world.
The portrait allows hope to speak to demoralizing anguish.
Many images of September 11th are seared on our psyche,
but perhaps none more frightening than the image of
a man and woman holding hands, leaping to their deaths from the top floors of the WTC Towers.
It was a choice between plunging to death upon city pavement
or falling into the inferno of their floorless building.
In their joined hands we see lives tortured with revolting horror
and hearts embraced in noble compassion
seconds before
a catastrophic end.
Psalm 6 says, “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing.
Hear me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
My soul also is struck with terror.”
Repulsive agony finds hope in Bronna Butler’s
The Rescue.
There is solace for deep fears.
In joined hands we find grace and pain
wounds and healing
fright and comfort
intricately joined.
The Rescue
promises that God is not always hidden.
We find Him in our cataclysmic moments.
Many tears have been shed on my shoulders as a Chaplain at ground zero,
as shared love
filled pools of grief with our unabated pain.
The Rescue
acknowledges God’s tenacious grasp that keeps us from falling.
Faith asserts that we are more than sparrows.
If God observes a tiny bird falling from its precarious position on the edge of a nest,
He sees us when we fall.
We are held in the hands of God where no torment can harm us.
Shakespeare said,
“Give voice to sorrow. Lend words to loneliness. Make heard
the depth of your despair and the breaking of your heart.
For what remains unspoken can never burst into healing song.”
For days we heard nothing but the endless voice of silence,
as transfixed eyes stared unconsciously into space.
It has been said that
“Grieving takes longer than we want it to.
even years go by and we discover
that the shock waves still reverberate in our scarred spirits,
that our grieving is still hesitant,
still halting, still sparse of those occasions that are healing.
But grief runs by its own clock,
and as surely as we sometimes mourn with agonizing slowness,
we will leap through other days,
making astonishing strides toward recovery.”
The Rescue
captures the spellbinding moment of love that grasps pain
in solidarity,
leaping, not into the dark abyss,
but into the hands of sustaining hope and trust.
The thought of two desperate people
holding hands in their immediate terror,
knowing they were vaulting to assured fatality,
reminds us of the repulsion for those who plummeted from
the building defenseless.
It was a reminder of our vulnerability, our fragileness with no
prospect of Clark Kent,
transformed into Superman in a nearby telephone booth
across the street from the World Trade Center Plaza,
swiftly flying to catch Lois Lane falling from a towering skyscraper.
Yet, the moment provides us with a surprising inspiration,
that together,
in fear and desperation,
with no alternative but a catastrophic decision
that there would be other hands that would not let them fall.
God’s hand, sometimes disguised, often evident, in despair.
Disguised in hands of heroes, sacrificing their lives to stay with people
in narrow stairwells.
Cloaked in hands that carried handicapped people in wheelchairs down eighty flights of stairs.
Concealed in words of heroes assuring frightened people that they would not abandon them.
God’s hands, cupped together, hold great promise.
Deep comfort
He keeps you from falling.
In time of trouble
Our only hope.
Even in our death,
Our only

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