9-11-16 THE GROUND ZERO CROSS

THE GROUND ZERO CROSS

September 11, 2016

 

          It is has been 15 years since that day.  A day all but the youngest of us will always remember.  A day when Americans felt violated, fearful, angry.  A day when many people asked "where was God"?  But He was there.  He is always there.  And He answered that question is a very dramatic way.  And so I would like to share with you two news stories - one from 2011 and one from 2014 about the Ground Zero cross - a powerful reminder that God has never forgotten us, and never will.

9/11 memorials: The story of the cross at Ground Zero

The Washington Post

By Sally Jenkins September 8, 2011

          The shape was oddly identifiable in the blasted wreckage of the World Trade Center, standing upright amid beams bent like fork tines and jagged, pagan-seeming tridents. A grief-exhausted excavator named Frank Silecchia found it on Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the terrorist attacks. A few days later, he spoke to a Franciscan priest named Father Brian Jordan, who was blessing remains at Ground Zero.

          "Father, you want to see God's House?" he asked. "Look over there."

Father Brian peered through the fields of shredded metal. "What am I looking for?" he asked. Silecchia replied, "Just keep looking, Father, and see what you see."

          "Oh my God", Father Brian said. "I see it."

          As Father Brian stared, other rescue workers gathered around him. There was a long moment of silence as he beheld what he considered to be a sign. Against seeming insuperable odds, a 17-foot-long crossbeam, weighing at least two tons, was thrust at a vertical angle in the hellish wasteland. Like a cross.

Ever since the two jets had slammed into the twin towers on Sept. 11, leaving 2,753 dead, Father Brian had been asked by countless New Yorkers, "Why did God do this?" He would reply tartly, in his Brooklyn-born accent: "It had nuttin' to do with God. This was the actions of men who abused their free will." Now here was God explaining Himself. It was a revelation, proof that "God had not abandoned Ground Zero, even as the awful excavations continued".

          Silecchia said worriedly, "Father, they might put this in some dump heap".

          "Frankie, no", Father Brian said. "No, they will not".

          Instead, as the 10th anniversary of the attacks nears, the "World Trade Cross" continues to occupy a central if controversial place at Ground Zero. Shortly after its discovery, Father Brian persuaded city officials to allow a crew of volunteer union laborers to lift it out of the wreckage by crane and mount it on a concrete pedestal. They placed it in a quiet part of the site, on Church Street, where on Oct. 3, 2001, Father Brian blessed it with the prayer of St. Bonaventure: "May it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee". When he finished, the crane operators sounded their horns, a choral blast.

          Each week, Father Brian held services there. He became the chaplain of the hard hats. Whenever crews working to find the dead needed a blessing or a prayer or absolution, Father Brian would offer it. Sometimes victims' families came to pray. The congregations grew from 25 or 35 to 200 and 300.

          Men cut replicas of the cross out of ruined steel and carried them in their pockets. Even Rich Sheirer, then New York's director of the Office of Emergency Management and a self-described "short, round Jewish guy", appreciated the cross. "Intellectually, you knew it's just two pieces of steel, but you saw the impact it had on so many people, and you also knew it was more than steel", he says. Sheirer has a picture of it standing in the wreckage, as well as a small steel cut-out given to him for a keepsake by the September 11th Families' Association.

          Father Brian says: "We had Jews, Muslims, Buddhists.  People who believed or didn't believe.  It was a matter of human solidarity. Whether you believed was irrelevant. We needed some type of fellowship down there, other than working."

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Ground Zero cross can remain at 9/11 Museum, court says; atheists' suit tossed

BY BILL HUTCHINSON

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Monday, July 28, 2014

          They didn't stand a prayer!

          A federal appeals court has tossed a lawsuit by a group of atheists who challenged the display of the "Cross at Ground Zero" at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

          The three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court ruled Monday that the cross recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center was more of a "genuine historical artifact" than a symbol of Christianity.

The judges noted that the cross - comprised of a 17-foot steel column and a crossbeam - became a "symbol of hope and healing for all persons in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy".

          No one was more pleased with the ruling than Frank Silecchia, 60, the ironworker who discovered the cross in the wreckage of the twin towers two days after the 2001 attacks.

          Faith won over atheism, the retired Silecchia, who now lives in South Carolina, told the Daily News Monday. "I'm kind of proud because that was my initial goal: to help ease the burden of humanity.  All I can do is thank God for answering my prayer", Silecchia added.

          The American Atheists initially sued the Port Authority in Manhattan Supreme Court in July 2011. The case was transferred to Manhattan Federal Court, where Judge Deborah Batts dismissed it on summary judgment.  The group appealed, arguing that displaying the cross at the museum violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and state constitutions of New York and New Jersey.  The atheists contended the display of the cross at the museum "gave the impression of a Latin cross, a symbol associated with Christianity". 

They asserted that displaying the cross was unconstitutional, "particularly without any accompanying plaque or similar item acknowledging that atheists were among those who died on 9/11 or participated in the rescue efforts".

          The appellate judges ruled the atheists' challenge fails on the merits.

The judges concluded that the "stated purpose of displaying The Cross at Ground Zero to tell the story of how some people used faith to cope with the tragedy is genuine, and an objective observer would understand the purpose of the display to be secular".

          'Faith won over atheism', Frank Silecchia, an ironworker who found the cross days after the attacks, said. (ANTHONY DELMUNDO FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

The panel also noted that the Rev. Brian Jordan, a Franciscan priest, welcomed all faiths to a Mass he held regularly at the cross during the rescue effort. Jordan was one of the defendants named in the suit.

          "The Cross at Ground Zero" thus came to be viewed not simply as a Christian symbol, but also as a symbol of hope and healing for all persons, the judges wrote.

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       Indeed, the cross is a symbol of hope and healing for all persons!  And it is also Ground Zero in many ways.  Webster gives three definitions for Ground Zero: 

- the point on the earth's surface directly above, below, or at which an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) occurs

- the central point in an area of fast change or intense activity

- the beginning state or starting point

As the sky darkened and the earth quaked when Jesus hung on the cross, terror filled the hearts of many, just as it did on that solemn day in 2001.  The cross on Golgotha was indeed a central point of both fast change and intense activity, for Christ had ushered in a new covenant through His death and resurrection.  It was the greatest turning point in all of human history.  And it was also the beginning of Christianity, and for all believers the starting point of a new life in Christ.

          I'm sure that what happened on 9/11 will not be the last of such horrific attacks.  Evil will continue to lash out in these last days, fighting harder than ever against all that is good, and especially against all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.  But we must never lose hope.  For we have the promise of the cross.  We have a God who loves us and will never desert us, even in our darkest days.  So when fear comes knocking on your door, despair tries to sneak in through the window, or grief rains down in torrents - cling to the cross.  And never, ever let go.  Amen.

CHILDREN'S MESSAGE:

Symbols...  what do these represent?  Sophia excitedly pointed out McDonalds.  What about the rest?  They knew most of them.  But what does the last one make you think of?  Sean shouted "Jesus"!  That's right, Sean.  And today's message is about a special cross that reminded people that Jesus is still here with us, and in the end, He will make everything right.