By Jeremy | September 9, 2011
9/11 Ten Years Later: A Lesson Learned
WTC TRAGEDY & GODâ€™S HEALING POWER 10 YEARS & COUNTING
[Ed note: Published in Love Express, September 2011]
by Rev. Richard Del Rio
On September 11, 2001, we witnessed the greatest attack our country has ever experienced. Thousands of workers, passengers, residents, by-standers and first responders lost there lives. The economic and military infrastructure of our nation was attacked. Buildings that were symbols of success, prosperity and security came crashing down. Fear, loss, despair, worry, and anger and retaliation gripped our nation.
Civil Servants and volunteers sprung into action not realizing that they would make the ultimate sacrifice. What a day! I arrived about 10 minutes after the collapse of the second tower. As I parked my motorcycle, I was immediately approached by a police who said, â€œFather, maybe you would like to pray for these body parts.â€ I respectfully knelt and prayed. When I got up, I noticed both towers had fallen. The walking bridges were blown up, fire trucks and emergency apparatus were destroyed and covered with debris and ash. The surrounding buildings and vehicles were destroyed. The silence was deafening.
As a Clergy Liaison for the NYPD, I was given access. The clergy collar, which I had hanging in my closet but had never worn before that morning, gave me instant recognition and provided for the first responders a sense that God was there. The devastation and despair was overwhelming. It was a war zone. In spite of this reality, the focus was to save lives. Who and how can we help? I jumped onto the pile and began helping firemen at 1 Liberty Plaza clean up for a triage, when a firemen said to me, â€œWeâ€™ll do that, weâ€™re just glad youâ€™re here.â€ I continued to help. Later on that afternoon, a police officer said, â€œThank you for being here, we need more guys like you.â€ Of course that stirred in my heart.
I reached my friend Pastor Marc Rivera, and we immediately went into emergency response mode. My son Jeremy, resigned his position as a corporate attorney to join us as we formalized the Ground Zero Clergy Task Force that later became the Northeast Clergy Group. Having served the NYPD and the community for twenty years, I felt that an effective response would require all of the clergy. Thankfully, God allowed us to lead NYC clergy in responding to this tragedy/disaster.
One lesson we learned was that a unified church was more effective than an individual congregation. With 200 churches and leaders coalescing around the vision of restoration and renewal, we were able to speak with one voice and have a greater impact as we dealt with the authorities and responded to the needs.
Ten years later, while relationships remain and the infrastructure to respond to another catastrophe is somewhat in place, the demands of ministry have caused many to return to 9-11 mode. Many of us have reverted back to focusing all of our time and energy on our own fields, meeting the demands and responsibilities of â€œourâ€ ministries. But there is one thing we canâ€™t get away from, the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17: â€œThat they may be one even as we are one.â€
Unity is more than coming together to respond to a catastrophe. The unity Jesus desires for us is proactive. It takes effort to become and stay one in relationship that embodies the characteristics of love and care God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have for each another. Only that type of unity can cry out to God together in prayer, worship and praise with one voice.
To become the answer to Jesus prayer, to be one with God and one with His people a decade after the crisis of 9-11, that is my renewed passion.
There is a cry in our hearts for the Lord to move in our churches and communities. Not only in Manhattanâ€™s Lower East Side but across our city and nation. Local churches have come together for â€œReaching Outâ€ prayer and worship gatherings where there is faith, expectation, excitement and joy. These are not personality or any one church driven, but are intentionally deÂsigned to put all of the focus on Jesus.
- Rev. Richard Del Rio is the founder and senior pastor of Abounding Grace Ministries in Manhattanâ€™s Lower East Side. After FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge was killed onÂsite, Pastor Rick was the only identifiable clergyman at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001. Firefighters and policemen called him â€œFather Harleyâ€ for his practice of driving to Ground Zero on his motorcycle. Visit him online at www.agmin.org.
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