Fifteen years ago, the continuing TV coverage of the imploding twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York was unbearable for me, as were accounts of the crashes and destruction in Washington and the hills of Pennsylvania. The immense devastation of human life was incomprehensible. Visiting the site in New York some five years later reopened searing wounds, and overwhelmed me with immense sadness. An incursion on our soil, carefully planned and executed by foreign elements, had shattered my cherished sense of security, and provoked a frightening sense of God’s absence.

How could my Catholic faith tradition enable me to endure this tragedy? I knew that neither vengeance nor sweeping animosity was an option for me.

You have left us crushed . . . covered us with darkness.  We are bowed down to the ground (Psalm 44:20, 26).

O Lord of hosts, restore us; Let your face shine upon us (Psalm 80:4).

The Psalmist cries a lament, expressing the mourning of the Israelite people, the chosen of God, who had regarded themselves as untouchable and above reproach, now hurled into misery. The lament expresses a nation’s agony, dares to complain against their divine protector, may even own some complicity in the misery, and finally pleads with God for deliverance.

In the midst of lamenting, the faith of Israel endured, as must ours. We are as vulnerable as they were to the violence and hatred that seem to encircle us. Our demand for a divine explanation goes unheeded. Yet we have learned of the self-sacrificing heroism of many, witnessing to the finest character of our nation and of our Christian heritage. Dying for one’s friends is a sacred theme in our story, epitomized in Jesus, our Savior, and extended through centuries in the grandest and noblest acts of men and women in all circumstances.

In 2001 we came together as one nation under God, sharing the grief, the disillusionment, and the promise to rebuild. As today we lament our honored dead and wounded, shall we translate such agonizing emotion into a persistent pursuit of worldwide reconciliation and peace?

This article was written for J.S. Paluch by Rev. Andrew Nelson.


I was advised in my early thirties by a counselor that we all have certain life lessons that we need to learn/complete.  If we don’t get them the first time around, they will revisit us again.  And again.  And again.  The reason I tell you this is because I have noticed a recurring theme of mine lately: get your life in order.  Is it speaking to me or am I meant to share it for the benefit of someone reading this page?  9/11 brings home the message that we don’t know the hour or the day.  Be ready to leave behind “a clean house” and meet your Maker with a clean conscience.