Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection was written by Community Outreach and Media Relations Director Andrew Kling.
I was living in midtown Manhattan on September 11. When the first tower fell, I ran downtown to try to help. The hospitals were swarmed with people giving blood, so I kept going. The second tower fell. From the other direction, so many people passed, covered in ash. I remember passing another hospital, medical students standing outside, with gurneys with bright white sheets, blowing softly in the breeze and shining in the fall sun, waiting to receive casualties. Later I would learn that once the towers fell, there were no casualties to receive. Those gurneys would remain empty.
When I arrived downtown, I sat and spoke with people in shock, students who were living four blocks away from the towers. One showed me a video he was taking as the tower fell. The people jumping. The building crumbling. His terrified scream as he watched.
At the end of the night, I sat with firefighters on the bus. Each had written his name and blood type in permanent marker on their forearm. They made it out. Many first responders didn’t.
I breathed that acrid smoke for months. I still remember the burnt rubber smell that lingered for so long. I lived under the constant siege of sirens and fear. My first call in EMT training was to the plane that crashed in Queens a few weeks later, which many thought was another attack. For years after, every time I saw a plane pass behind a building, I would wait an awful moment to see if it would emerge from the other side. Sometimes I still do.
I don’t like to talk about September 11 for many reasons. So many others endured so much worse. But I’ve been thinking about that day more recently. Watching news coverage from the United States and the world, it can seem at times that there is less grace and more anger and hatred than ever before.
Recently a friend shared a remarkable interview of Fred Rogers. One of the formative lessons he cited in his life was a teacher who told him this: “The one thing evil can’t stand is forgiveness.”
I’ve been turning that over in my mind recently. I’m wondering, what does that truly mean, do I believe it, and what am I going to do about it?
Every time I visit a family in one of the communities we serve in Unbound, I learn more about this question. I hear what they have overcome, what they have forgiven. So many others have endured so much worse. And with every visit, and every story I hear, I may be closer to an answer.
God, please help us to remember. Help us to remember who we are, and who we can be to each other. Help us to remember grace. Help us to learn forgiveness. Amen.