The Cross at Ground Zero

H.B. London I stood in shocked silence while watching the television at 9:02 a.m. as the second aircraft, like a toy plane, flew into the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, it was not a made-for-television movie, nor was the Boeing 767 a toy.

September 11 forever changed the way the world would define terrorism. As the hours passed, a stunned nation attempted to comprehend how the greatest superpower in the world could be so vulnerable. Words failed us. So we just cried and attempted to comfort one another. And we prayed.

Two days after the attack, the rescue workers came across two steel beams in the perfect shape of a cross. The workers immediately embraced that steel cross as a symbol of hope to help them deal with the incredible heartache of digging day after day, but finding no survivors. The 20-foot tall cross was hoisted onto a 40-foot foundation for all to see. Firemen and policemen wrote messages on the cross in honor of those who had fallen.

On October 23, I visited Ground Zero with the Salvation Army, whose men and women worked tirelessly for weeks in the recovery/rescue efforts. As I entered the 17-acre crime scene, the first thing I saw was the steel cross. It stood as a tower of love in the midst of death and sorrow. I watched rescue workers stand at the foot of that cross in silent observance. They found faith and solace in it.

My life was changed by that visit to Ground Zero. I witnessed compassion, bravery and determination in a way seldom seen. I watched sober, heartbroken workers risking their own lives to find a fallen comrade.

Then I thought of the cross — the cross that had your name and the name of every human who has walked the earth inscribed upon it. I remembered the words of Paul, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). The expression of Jesus, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). I recalled the words of John Bowring from the hymn, "In the Cross of Christ I Glory":

When the woes of life o'ertake me,

Hopes deceive, and fears annoy.

Never shall the cross forsake me.

Lo! It glows with peace and joy.

I found comfort in the words of the Psalmist, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear" (Psalm 46:1,2).

In spite of what my eyes were seeing and my heart was feeling, I knew the answer to all of our questions, the salve that would kiss away the pain, the thing that would bring certainty out of the uncertain — the cross of Christ. And now, while answers come very slowly, our hope remains steadfast. Why? Because "The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (Psalm 46:7).

We shall never forget the events of September 11, but never shall we forget the comforting presence of a Holy God. The cross at Ground Zero reminds us of that.

Article copyright © 2003, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Dr. H.B. London is the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family and the author of numerous books on and for pastors. He served as a Nazarene pastor for over 30 years in several churches in Oregon and California. He and his wife, Beverley, live primarily in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have two sons and four grandchildren.