Chaplains bear witness

Five chaplains who served first responders, loved ones and the community in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks tell their stories to the Huffington Post.

The Rev. Dr. Martha Jacobs, BCC wrote:

At the Chambers Street Station I would get off the train and make my way to the gate where I could gain admittance to what felt like a war zone. The streets were covered in dirt and the guards had guns and seemed to be dressed for war. My ID was looked at and I smiled at the guys, trying to make that human connection with them. Some smiled back; others simply nodded and let me in. I would make my way to the respite center and spend the day with police, fire and recovery/construction workers, helping them to be able to continue to do their work, listening to their stories of pain and anger, confusion and grief. It was a time of deep listening because I could not take away their pain or their anger or their grief. I could not make them “feel better” — but I could acknowledge their feelings and let them know that what they were feeling was “normal.” One night I played poker with a group of police officers. We joked and I listened to their stories as they played cards — doing something “normal” that was not in a “normal” place. When we finished playing, they all said that they felt better and thanked me for playing with them. I wonder if they remember that game and how we created a new “normal” around that table.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve those who were there to protect us and recover the remains of those who died. It was not something I ever envisioned when I answered a call to serve God. And yet, it was the right thing to do. And it changed my practice as a chaplain and as a human being. And it established for me a new “normal” in my life and in my work.

Fr. James Martin, SJ makes a video pilgrimage to Ground Zero ten years later:

Find the other stories here.

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