On September 11 2001, I was living in Costa Rica when the terrorist attacks happened in U.S. soil. I was a seminarian in the missions and I did not know at the time what the terrorist attacks meant for a superpower. In my country, Venezuela, imperialistic ideas were prevalent when I was little and became even more aggressive with the rise of Chavez to power. In my country, as for the rest of Latin America, the U.S.A. was seen as the oppressor power. In contrast, I was watching the news the horrific scenes of people jumping from the top of the twin towers; at the moment, (16 years ago), it seemed to me that an oppressor power was getting a hard blow.
When I came to the U.S. in 2003, just couple of years after this horrendous episode happened, I realized that Americans were affected personally , socially and financially. Companies and corporations in the stock market fell precipitously and paranoia started to spread. Most of the people did not feel secure at home. Churches were full days after the attacks. I was wondering why tragedy has to happen in order to see people turning to God. This was the moment that I reflect about my own journey. Precisely, I was that kind of people. For most of my life, my relationship with God was based on a trader mentality: “I give something to God, and He must help me with my projects”. This childless attitude became my prayer until I realized that I was wrong. The turning point of my faith was precisely when I experienced a crisis of faith. I asked myself: Why am I believing in God, if he is not answering my prayer? Probably, that was the same question of middle class Americans especially young adults at the time of the attacks and even now with the rise of relativism and agnosticism.
After all this years, I came to the conclusion that suffering is part of humanity and for a nation to get united, bad news had to come. We do not like to suffer, but we know, as Christians, that suffering redeems. As the Catholic Church was reaching out to those affected by this tragedy, I became aware that there were Catholics (like you and me) who were helping out there. They were not asking many questions, they just helped. I started helping in a ministry in my parish, avoiding irrational questions. For example why this happened to me? or what bad things happen to good people? For me, the cite from Proverbs 16, 1 “We may make our plans, but God has the last word” stuck into my mind and my soul. For a long time my plans were avoiding suffering and problems. Now, when I make plans I do not worry about the outcome. I just ask from the Lord his blessings. I know that the Lord is the one who let us learn from our own experience.
There is no reason to justify the September 11 attacks, but ground zero is the place in which a nation will treasure memories, lamentations and prayers forever. A nation was wounded but not its soul. Let us continue healing our wounds by putting all our plans in God’s hands.