We want a word from God. When, before our eyes, hijacked airplanes crash into buildings, and the towers of the World Trade Center plunge to the ground snuffing out thousands of lives, when evil suddenly and irrevocably transcends the limits of what we have assumed is possible, we desperately seek to know what God intends for us.
Our response to human horror and tragedy moves inexorably outward as if through concentric circles, beginning in the gut and the heart, moving to the head, and finally taking shape in the form of shared social responses.
After the twin towers collapsed, Washington Square United Methodist Church in Greenwich Village opened its doors and telephone lines to crying, shaken passersby. “Then the walking wounded began appearing—folks who had walked out of the ‘ground zero’ area,” reported Jacquelyn Moore in a widely circulated e-mail message.
At noon on September 11 the chapel of the Interchurch Center at 475 Riverside Drive was filled with people who didn’t know the fate of loved ones, and people who could not get home, as Manhattan was sealed off.
These past days the church has been open. People have come flowing in bearing pictures of “the disappeared,” sent by St. Vincent’s Hospital two blocks away, where the chapel was overwhelmed and the need had become too taxing for a staff readying for the arrival of the victims—victims who never came in anything like the expected numbers.
When the first aircraft hit New York’s World Trade Center during the morning rush hour on Tuesday, September 11, young children were arriving at Trinity Wall Street’s pre-school, staff were on the streets around the center, and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Wales was preparing for a videotaping with Trinity Television. Daniel P.