A reflection by Rev. Timothy C. Ahrens, Sr. Minister, The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, at the interfaith service of Lament for the victims of the September 11, 2001, "Attack on America."
To conceive of a terrorist plan of attack and to execute such a plan as heinous as the one we saw strike New York and Washington yesterday takes a level of evil and hatred rarely, if ever, witnessed in the history of the world which God has created and called "good." It is true, there have been evil operations created by dictators and despots, years in the planning, whose intended objective was the devastation of a race, or a tribe, or a religious, or ethnic group. But never, to this scale and to this degree, has an act of hatred and terror been executed in which the band of rogue murderers has turned instruments of commerce into instruments of war; and pointed commercial planes as explosive weapons against places of commerce where innocent children, women, and men were simply doing their jobs, living their lives only to be utterly destroyed through unfathomable means and in such horrid and absolute expressions of hatred.
Words are dried from our mouths and emotions are stripped to nakedness in the face of the horrors we have witnessed and continue to witness. Tears and rage are either flowing so freely from us that they are beyond our control, or they have been stifled within us seeking creative outlet and release. Because in all of this, the scenes we see are too horrific to take in. The feelings we feel are overwhelming.
And we wonder "why?" And we cry our "whys" to God who loves us and calls us His own. We say that all are children of God, but we wonder if the children of God who conceived and executed this plan were in hell before this happened and will remain in hell forever. We question if they have the right to be called God's children. We wonder if these children of evil can be forgiven and redeemed. And in the midst of our wondering the voice of God, calling from the deep within us cries, "Do Justice, Be Merciful," "Do not take an eye for an eye!" and "Love Your Enemy, Love them, do not hate them."
I cannot answer all the questions about the judgment of the murderers. Ultimately, scripture tells us, "vengeance and judgment are mine, saith the Lord." I do truly believe, God will deal in this world and the next with the bodies and souls of the children of evil who rained death and destruction on the innocent ones at the center of New York's business district, at the center of our military complex, the Pentagon, and in an empty farm field in western Pennsylvania.
Although my tears have been dry in the face of terror, they have flown freely as stories of courage, heroism, and love have come out of Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania. The survivors are talking about angels of mercy who pulled them to safety. There are stories coming forth of people saving thousands of lives through calm, deliberate evacuation of the Trade Center. A woman reporter tells how she saved by a firefighter who swept her away during the collapse of the South Tower and when she was at a safe distance, he handed her over to a police officer and headed back into the firestorm searching for others. She said, "I don't see how he could have survived!"
There are stories of firefighters and police who were blown into the subways after the North Tower of the Trade Center collapsed, only to claw their way out of the subways and begin again to free the trapped, the injured, and the dying. These same men and women were working on the streets near the base of Building #7 when it collapsed late yesterday. Reports coming in through the night, based on cell phone calls made from passengers on United Airlines Flight #93 which crashed near Somerset Pennsylvania, confirmed that people were battling the terrorists to the end. And took that plane down in empty field. Heroes - every last one! The children of God, the angels of mercy are alive in NYC and Washington, D.C. serving God and humanity at this hour! Thanks be to God!
At 5:00am this morning, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain reminded us as Americans that we are not alone. He said, "All people of the free world stand ready to eradicate terrorism and evil from the face of the earth. This is not your battle, only. The entire free world is standing to fight with you!"
For those of you here who have lost family, friends, and colleagues, my heart is breaking for you. I am here. All of us are here, to uphold you and care for you. You are not alone. God will bless you and hold you in His arms of mercy and love.
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