To Mourn, Reflect, Hope

A sermon delivered at New York's Marble Collegiate Church in New York City on September 16, 2001

BY: Dr. Arthur Caliandro


Stories. Stories. Each one of us has stories about Tuesday and what has happened since. We need to tell our stories. We need to hear each other's stories. We, ourselves, are stories.

Tuesday morning at 8:45 a.m., I got out of a taxi here at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 29th Street. I heard the sound of a jet plane flying very low overhead. I looked up. I didn't see the plane, but the sound struck me as odd, because one doesn't hear big jet planes flying low over Manhattan. It doesn't happen, but this day it did.

I gave it no further thought and I went to my desk. Moments later, my younger son called me and said, "Dad, get to a television. A plane just hit the World Trade Center." As he was describing the scene, he said, "I see another plane coming. It hit the other building! What's going on? Something's happening!" And it was. And it has.

We've seen those pictures a thousand times since. For generations of Americans, things have changed permanently. For you and for me, things will not be the same again. America has changed permanently. Something has happened. For thirty years, as I would walk down Fifth Avenue and look straight ahead toward the very bottom tip of Manhattan Island, I would see those two gigantic buildings. And never did I see them without a feeling of awe and wonder that the human mind could create such mammoth, extraordinary structures.

I never paused to calculate the immense human loss if all the people, who worked in those towers, ever became the victims of some attack or calamity. Even with rescue efforts underway today, we still have no way of comprehending just what the toll will be in human loss and pain.

As I look back over the years, I recall that in the first building, Building One, there was a restaurant on the 107th floor called Windows on the World. My wife and I would often go there, bringing friends and family members from outside of the city and state. Sometimes we would enjoy special celebrations there. We would look from the south, we would look from the north, we would look from the east, we would look from the west, and see extraordinary views. We felt as if we were seeing the entire world.

Those twin towers were the symbol of American free enterprise. They were a symbol of New York and a symbol for all of the United States. They were important symbols, like the Titanic. But the Titanic has sunk again and with it, thousands of lives have been lost. It's a strange feeling now, coming down Fifth Avenue and not seeing those towers there. I'm still numb. I'm stunned. Where do we look for meaning and answers when we've lost such an important symbol and when people we knew and loved are never going to return?

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