Ground Zero-Christmas Thoughts

Christmas Thoughts – December 2001
by Bob Davidson,
Pastor – Westwood Evangelical Free Church
Chaplain – Westwood Fire Department
Member – Massachusetts Corps of Fire Chaplains

The Gospel of John begins his story of Jesus by stating, “The light shines in the
darkness, but the darkness has not understood (comprehended, overpowered) it.” With
the events of 9-11 in New York City just a few months old, this Christmas gives us pause
to consider again God’s promise to us.

The night had just fallen and we were all standing around, awaiting further word from
where the South Tower used to stand at the World Trade Center. Another body, a fire
fighter, had been discovered and, as soon as a steel beam was removed, it would be taken
to the temporary morgue. I, as a fire chaplain, plus other chaplains, fire and police
personnel, were waiting to form the honor guard which would salute our fallen brother as
his body was carried past us. As we waited, a spontaneous hymn sing began, as the songs
of the faith were sung in the night air. Then, our voices looked toward the still
smoldering rubble where the body still lay entombed, and sang, “We Are Standing On
Holy Ground.” “The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered

Just west of Ground Zero, within a very short time of September 11, tables were set up
by volunteers to provide food, clothing and personal items and, a listening ear to all the
rescue workers at The Pile. After being there a week, these volunteers erected tents over
the tables to protect their help to the workers from getting soaked in the rain. They were
there for the duration. Day after day, week after week, and now month after month these
volunteers of the Salvation Army have continued to staff their tables, providing 24/7
physical, emotional and especially spiritual support to the recovery efforts. By their
presence they are demonstrating that “the Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness
has not overpowered it.”

The Massachusetts Corps of Fire Chaplains arrived the Sunday after the disaster. One of
the fire chaplains from the north shore was working his assignment at the temporary
morgue when a rescue worker said, “Come here, chaplain, you’ve got to see this.”
Following the worker, he climbed over the rubble that was still littering the area. There,
in the lower level of what used to be Building 5, was a piece of steel that had been
stripped away of concrete, insulation and other pieces of connecting steel. All that was
left was a 20 foot vertical beam with a 10 foot crossbeam attached to it. A cross was
formed miraculously by the collapsing of the Twin Towers. Workers have since taken
that cross and mounted it on top of a concrete stanchion at the northwest corner of
Ground Zero. It now quietly stands there above the remaining rubble, reminding
everyone that “the Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered

Very shortly after 9-11 some New Yorkers put together a booklet(1) called “fallen but not
forgotten.” In it they share, “Why didn‘t God intervene for the victims? many are asking
in their anguish. But He did! He died for them long before they were born, even those
victims who would never believe in Him.

“God does not hide in times of trouble. He proved that on a cross 2,000 years ago. In the
critical moment that spelled the difference between life and death for everyone in the
whole world [which includes you and me], through all of time, God intervened. He who
could have remained safely in heaven chose to take on human form and, like the brave
rescue worker, put Himself directly into harm’s way. [He clothed Himself with the
equipment of a rescue worker-He clothed Himself with humanity in order to, as the
Christmas angel declares, “save His people from their sins.”] ‘There is no greater love
than He who lays down His life for another’ (John 15:13).

“Although thousands of people died in a Tuesday of terrorism that we will never forget,
God bids us to consider the Life available after death.

“We can accept God’s act of love, through Jesus, on our behalf, as out entryway to
eternity with Him, or we can ignore God’s intervention and spend our eternity without

“Our world doesn’t always make sense. In a moment we can experience tragedy and
pain. Sometimes great pain. But through faith, God has provided a way to live in a world
of evil with peace and hope. We can choose it in a moment-a moment with eternal

This Christmas, as He has done for hundreds of Christmases, He continues to prove that
“the Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.”


(1) The King’s College at the Empire State Building, in affiliation with Campus Crusade
for Christ International. Created by the Journey Group.