The Hand-Print on the Wall

By: Bruce R Porter, D.Div.

Scanning the empty classroom, my gaze fell upon a small hand-print on the wall just below the sill of a shattered window. It was small, belonging to a child of perhaps only 7 or 8 years old. Broken glass crunched as I stepped nearer to examine it more closely. It reminded me of the artwork little children often create with finger-paint and proudly sign with a crayon.

This was not an art project to display on a refrigerator however. It also didn’t bear a crayon signature, or even a “smiley face” sticker. It was printed in the life-blood of a wounded child while desperately trying to escape the monsters who invaded the child’s school.

Beslan School is located in southern Russia. On the first day of each school year, it is a custom for students, their parents, grandparents, and siblings, to gather for a special day of celebration. Dressed in their best clothes, students bring flowers and gifts for their teachers. On that fateful day of September 1st, 2004, Beslan’s festive occasion was cut short. At 8:45 am, fifty Islamic terrorists stormed into the school’s courtyard in full battle dress, armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons, and captured over 1,100 people within 15 minutes. The hostages were herded into the school’s gymnasium, and held for three days without food or water. Many of the hostages desperately resorted to drinking their own urine. The jihadists tortured and humiliated the captives, even raping many of the young girls right in front of their horrified classmates and parents.

Around 1 pm on the third day, some of the bombs planted throughout the school began detonating. Panicked hostages began jumping out of windows and rushed the exit doors to escape. The jihadists opened fire on the hostages with automatic weapons, and tossed grenades among them. Russian special forces rushed the building to save as many hostages as possible. After a room to room battle, hundreds of people lay dead or horribly wounded. In the end, nearly 600 perished.

When the news broke in America, I knew I had to respond. Over the years, I’d served in my local fire department as a firefighter and Critical Incident Stress Debriefer. I also served at the Columbine High School attack and Ground Zero in New York after 9/11. I believed I could help, and made plans to fly to Russia. This wasn’t easy, for Beslan was nearly closed to foreigners. I kept pushing for visas for my small response team. Miraculously, visas were granted, flights booked, and funds poured in to cover our expenses.

Six days later, we landed late at night at Beslan’s only airport. The next morning, we visited the school ruins. Amazingly, the authorities opened the buildings to anyone to see what the terrorists had done. Family and friends wandered the scorched corridors and classrooms of the buildings wailing and moaning. It was a house of horrors beyond our worst nightmares. In the gymnasium, thousands of open water bottles and flowers were displayed. The water commemorated the fact that the victims were deprived of water during their ordeal. The walls and ceilings of every hallway and classroom were splattered with blood, clinging bits of human flesh, shrapnel, and bullet-holes. Weeping, I stepped past pools of blood and debris, praying God would give me wisdom to help this broken community.

Our team visited hospitals to give small gifts, stuffed animals, and offer what encouragement we could to survivors. It was heartbreaking to see little kids suffering from bullet-wounds, and shrapnel. The vacant stares of little girls and young women who endured the most cruel and brutal abuse haunted me for months. Most physical wounds would eventually heal, but emotional scars can last a lifetime. A nurse remarked that we were the first American visitors, and it was the first time most of the children had smiled or laughed.

I met with Dr. Federov, Director of the children’s hospital in nearby Vladikavkaz. His eyes filled with tears as he described the first desperate hours when hundreds of injured children began arriving in private cars and trucks because there were only a few ambulances. They hurriedly set up a tent to triage the flood of wounded. He choked-up as he described having to use garden hoses to wash blood off the children so their wounds could be assessed. Later, a nurse wept and told me how they had to stack bodies up in the hallways because the morgue was overflowing. With each encounter, we sought to encourage, pray with, and share funds with families from donors in America.

We visited one of the families who survived the attack. They lost their 5-year-old son, Mark. We rode in a car with several bullet-holes. The terrorists shot at the father trying to escape the school with three other children huddled in the back seat. The mother, however, and two of their sons were captured.

While they were held in the gym, she saw little Mark put his hands together, bow his head, and pray. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was praying for the terrorists so they would come to know Jesus like their family did. She was shocked at his simple, childlike faith. When pandemonium broke out at the end, little Mark was struck in the head by shrapnel from a nearby bomb and died in his mother’s arms. She didn’t want to leave him, but her older son shouted over the mayhem and explosions, “Mom! Mark’s with Jesus now, but we have to get out of here!” She gently kissed her little boy’s face one last time, leaped up, and they ran to safety.

I wept as I beheld in her face a heavenly serenity and peace. She said, “I have forgiven these terrible men, as I know my Markie did in his heart. He prayed for them, and I pray for their souls now.” Such a display of God’s peace in the soul of this mother was inspirational beyond words.

At the new cemetery on the edge of town, we laid a wreath and tried to comfort mourners. Walking among the fresh graves, I saw that whole families were often buried together. Flowers and cards covered the fresh mounds of dirt. I was moved to see thousands of packages with flowers and a letter from the State of Israel laid upon each grave. No other nation did the same. Who could empathize more with the pain of these brokenhearted people than the Jews, who have suffered such undeserved, evil hatred for centuries?

Looking back, I struggle sometimes wondering if our small team made any difference in the face of such a disaster. Hopefully, the hundreds of hand-written cards we gave out from Christian school students, and the stuffed animals and small packages of Columbine flowers assuaged, in some small measure, their grief. Only eternity will tell. I remain inspired by the example little Markie left us to pray for those ensnared in the matrix of evil and hate. I’m also haunted by a disturbing question. Will there be more bloody hand-prints on school walls, perhaps right here in America? I suspect we have a lot of praying to do.

INVENTING THE “PALESTINIAN NATION”

A TOOL FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE

by: Tzafrir Ronen


Note from Bruce Porter:
The author, Tzafrir Ronen, served in the Israel Defense Forces as a member of the elite Sayeryet Matkal unit. (Heb:
סיירת מטכ”ל) It was originally part of a PowerPoint in Hebrew, and was translated by my good friend, Giveon Cornfield, Ph.D. The article is vitally important in order to understand the underlying presumptions of the “Middle East Peace Process.” The amazing Orwellian twist on well-documented facts by historical revisionists is as terrifying as it is breathtaking.)


annapolis-bush3In 2007, U.S. president Bush spoke of his vision of ‘Two states for two nations.’ Beyond the rhetoric, the question is; are there really two nations?

Without a doubt, the Nation of Israel has, throughout 2000 years of exile, maintained its identity and has never forgotten its biblical homeland, the Land of Israel. But what actually is the other nation? Is it truly a nation without a homeland? It is very interesting to read what Palestinian leaders have to say:


In 1977, PLO leader Zouhair Moukhsein was interviewed by a Netherlands daily (Truv). Pay close attention to what he said:


“There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation; creating a Palestinian state is a new means in the ongoing war with Israel for Arab unification, because realistically there is no difference between Palestinians and Syrians, Jordanians, or Lebanese. We speak of the existence of a Palestinian nation only for tactical and political purposes. It is in the Arab national interests to encourage a separate Palestinian identity in order to oppose Zionism. Tactically, Jordan – as a legitimate state with defined borders – cannot lay claim to Jaffa and Haifa. But I as a Palestinian can demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and Jerusalem…after we secure our rights in all of Palestine; we must without a moment’s delay, reunite Jordan and Palestine.”


Three years earlier (1974), Syrian president Hafez Assad declared:


assad2

“We must remind the Israeli government that we view Palestine not only as inseparable from the Arab Nation, but as a part of southern Syria.”


In 1987 at the Amman conference Assad again said:


“A country called Palestine never existed”,


kinghussein2to which King Hussein replied:


“The emergence of the Palestinian national identity came as a response to Israel‘s demand that Palestine be Jewish.”


In September 1993, Assad repeated his stand in an interview with an Egyptian daily:

“When I speak…of Palestine I see it as a part of Syria


But “The Boss”, himself – Arafat – went even further, when in 1970 he spoke candidly:


arafatugly1

“The question of borders is of no interest to us…from the Arab point of view: Palestine is a mere drop in the great ocean, ours is the great Arab nation that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and beyond.”


In a careless moment during an interview in Amman with Italian journalist Orianna Falacci, he disclosed that the PLO is fighting Israel in the name of pan-Arabism, adding:


“What you call “Trans Jordan” in nothing other than Palestine…”


implying that Arafat, leader of ‘”The Nation of the Homeless,” is part of a nation that already occupies an area larger than all of Europe


As far back as 1956, the PLO’s first chairman, Achmed Shukeiri, declared at the United Nations that:

“There is no such thing as Palestine, which is merely the southern part of greater Syria.”


Following this logic, “Palestinians” do not exist, and the subsequent chairman of this invented nation stated that Palestine is also Jordan and is fighting Israel in the name of Pan-Arabism…

arablandsmap22

When leaders of Arab terrorist organizations remove their camouflage, it becomes clear that they are not fighting for the rights of a supposedly oppressed nation, but rather represent 22 nations larger than Europe. Mokhsein, Shukeiri and Arafat reveal in addition that Arabs living in Israel are exactly the same as Arabs living in Syria or Jordan. They are not a separate nation, merely a sliver of the mighty Arab Nation: They are…


“A new means of continuing the war on Israel for the purpose of Arab unification”


Once the facade of lies and deceit is removed, it becomes clear that the original Arab empire stretching from the Atlantic to China is opposed to the Jewish nation seeking a home in its historical birthplace, and that represents less than one fifth of one percent of Arab lands.


WHERE DID THE PALESTINIAN MYTH ORIGINATE?

Before the Six Day War, the Arabs never bothered to soften their rhetoric. The ‘Final Solution’ was regularly broadcast by media in all Arab states, using brutal and primitive phrases such as


“Throw the Jews into the sea,” and “The men into the water and the women for us.”


The world heard, and knew, and kept silent.

67warpic1

But after the 1967 defeat, Arab states realized that the Israeli Samson could only be vanquished through the wiles of The Philistine Delila. So they switched from calls for genocide to a fine-tuned, diplomatic approach that was more amenable to Western ears. They realized that it was easier to convince world public opinion that ‘those poor people’ deserve to have a nation of their own – rather than adding a tiny piece of land to the huge Arab empire – and so “The Palestinian Nation” was invented. History was turned on its head: Israel‘s David against the Arab Goliath was cleverly reversed: now the Israeli Goliath oppresses Palestinian David. This was likened to a close-up of the wound on Goliath’s forehead, to make one feel sorry for the poor fellow.


The Palestine myth is a lie and falsehood unprecedented in history – so successful that there are few who don’thitler stalinbelieve in it. The methods are well known: brainwashing, outright lies and falsehood combined with ignorance and the anti-Semitism endemic in the world media. A decades-long campaign of distortion and erasing of historical facts reminiscent of Stalin, Goebbles and Hitler – the 20th century’s arch-propagandists – has proven true the cynically proclaimed saying that: “the bigger the lie, the more believable it becomes.”


Many appeasing Israelis imagined that if they compromised the truth – maybe even gave up what’s theirs and tried to placate the Arabs by going along with their Big Lie, the Arabs would let them live in peace. IT DIDN’T WORK!


THEY REPEATEDLY TRIED:


  • OSLO RESULTED IN THE LOSS OF 1500 ISRAELI LIVES.
  • A UNILATERAL WITHDRAWAL FROM GAZA ONLY YIELDED ANOTHER FRONT.
  • EACH CONCESSION ONLY INCREASED THEIR ENEMY’S APPETITE.

There appears to be no viable solution other than a Jewish State of Israel, wherein Arabs are the conquered and Israel the conqueror.

*******************************

(Note from Bruce: While the prospect of accepting the position that the “Arabs are the conquered and Israel the conqueror,” may seem outrageous to those who have accepted the “Big Lie,” it is the only solution that will result in peace and security in the Middle East.


There are two very simple, yet profoundly truthful reasons for this.
israelflag

  1. The State of Israel, and the Jewish people, have repeatedly demonstrated a fundamental respect for human life, tolerance for other faiths, and a willingness to co-exist with their neighbors in peace.

  2. Under a Jewish/Israeli government and administration, the Arab population would enjoy a greater degree of freedom, prosperity, security, education, and health care, than that offered in any other neighboring Arab/Islamist regime.

israelflagburn1However, should the circumstances be reversed, and it is Israel that is conquered, it is a foregone conclusion—based upon the repeated threats and actions by the Arab Palestinians—that:


  1. The Jews would be slaughtered mercilessly. A bloodbath of unthinkable proportions would occur.

  2. All Jewish buildings, schools, hospitals, factories, and the basic infrastructure would be destroyed, (evidenced by what happened after Israel abandoned Gaza). The resulting poverty, disease, and social chaos among the remaining Arabs would be an international humanitarian nightmare.

  3. The living conditions for the remaining “Palestinians” in the territories would be horrendous, with roving bands of rag-tag terrorists preying upon the survivors. Other Arab nation-states would likely fight over what is left with millions of innocent Arabs slaughtered by their own “brethren.” (History is our teacher)

It is utter insanity to perpetuate the Mideast struggle by seeking to draw some tortured “moral equivalency” argument between Israel and their Arab neighbors. Only by denying the obvious differences between Islamic barbarism and Jewish civilization can one be duped into thinking there is a way to be “even-handed” in this struggle.

LET ISRAEL WIN! Only in this way can the bloodshed be stopped! Why is it so DIFFICULT for people to see which side has the moral high-ground?!


Please understand, I’m not saying that Israel is perfect. It is a nation made up of flawed human beings like any other. However the underlying moral and ethical ethos of Israel and the Jewish people make the possibility of peace and human decency infinitely more likely than a region ruled by Islam and the unspeakable barbarism of sharia law!

I have met and talked with Israeli Arabs (who, by the way, enjoy Israeli citizenship) who told me that all things considered, they enjoy a much better life under Israeli law and rule than they ever did in Jordan or any other Arab nation. This should tell us something.

Our Little Broom

Note from Author:
I’ve had a lot of encouraging responses regarding my other post on my experiences at Ground Zero after 9-11. So, here’s another one. Let’s never forget.

 

“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all;
and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony,
because it takes them unawares.”

President Abraham Lincoln
–From the
December 23, 1862 Letter to Fanny McCullough
 

I stood in a drizzling rain just yards from the “pile” at Ground Zero. It was nearly sundown and the day had not gone well. The frustration of not finding anyone alive for the past several days had clearly demoralized all of us on-scene. Even the search and rescue dogs were becoming depressed, having been trained to find living victims. Looking around at the strained, dirty faces of firefighters, ironworkers, and police personnel working nearby, I reflected on all that had happened since I arrived at this horrible scene six days after the attack on 9-11. As a Critical Incident Stress Debriefer and a Chaplain in my local fire department, I had felt compelled to take the earliest flight possible from my home high in the mountains of Colorado to this smoking ruin. What I found was far worse than I had imagined.

 

When I first walked up to the wreckage at Ground Zero, I nearly staggered backward, and had to fight off an almost overwhelming feeling of disorientation. The magnitude of the jam002destruction was far more than televised images or my eyes could take in, let alone get my mind around. For as far as the eye could see in every direction, while standing at the base of a nearly five-story pile of grotesquely twisted steel girders, pipes, wires, metal ductwork, and unidentifiable debris, the once-proud and beautiful World Trade Center lay in humiliation and ruin. Acrid smoke and steam rose up, giving the scene an ethereal sense, and the smells emanating from the pile burned my nose and eyes. The scent was of burning metal, insulation, wires, and aviation fuel. There was also another scent however, infinitely more disturbing. At times, I could detect an odor of burning flesh, and my heart and mind reeled at the thought of the thousands of people trapped in that hellish pyre.

 

Looking around, my eyes took in the faces of the firefighters and policemen frantically working around me, fighting desperately against time to find someone, anyone, alive in that rubble. Many of their faces were totally expressionless, drawn and weary, yet extremely focused on the one thing on everyone’s mind… finding someone alive. Some of these men had labored here since the first morning of the collapse, sleeping and eating only when they had to, refusing to leave the side of their buried brothers. I stood there, in the midst of this hellish scene, clad in my firefighter bunker gear; the rockers of my yellow helmet emblazoned with the word “Chaplain,” and fought back tears. I felt so small, so insignificant among these giants and heroes of our land, who were suffering so much, and I prayed that God would give me grace to encourage, strengthen, and comfort them.

 

gzero-1As darkness began to envelope Ground Zero, the clouds of smoke rising from the debris gave an eerie effect to the huge lights erected at the site. The search would go on and on, through the long night until the dawn of tomorrow, and for countless tomorrows to come. For some of these people, the desperate search would continue for the rest of their lives. These unspeakably horrible scenes, imprinted upon their minds and hearts, will be with them… forever. No eraser but the grace of God could ever cleanse the mind of such scenes.

 

In the midst of this of this scene from hell, I heard the faint electronic ringing of my cell phone inside my rain-drenched firefighting jacket. Groping for the phone, I finally pulled it up to my ear. “Hello,” I heard my own voice say in a croaking response. Barely discernable over the noise, a small delicate voice answered.

 

“What are you dooo-ing, Daddy?” 

 

It was my five-year-old daughter, Hannah. She had gotten my cell number from her mommy and wanted to call me. Her sweet voice seemed to me at that moment like a transmission from another planet, and it drew me back into a reality that almost seemed a dim memory. She was calling from her innocent, childhood world, with days filled with Winnie the Pooh stories, the wonder and fascination of watching multi-colored birds visit the feeder on our deck, or staring at the clouds and trying to figure out what they looked like. I ached to be back in her world again, with the innocence of unsullied childhood gazing in curious wonder at the world. Her melodic voice was like a cool drink of water to my parched soul.

 

At first I couldn’t speak. My mind raced for some appropriate response that would satisfy her curiosity without frightening her. What could I say to a little girl who was reaching out to her daddy, expressing in the only way she knew how, her concern and fear for me?

 Hannah holds little girls in China

Hannah’s life had been a study in contrasts. Born in Nanchang, China, and abandoned by her parents at the tender age of four days old, her only crime was that of being born a girl. Abandoned beside a lonely, dusty road, wrapped in her only earthly possession, a filthy rag of a blanket, she was found by passers-by and brought to a government-operated nursery. She spent the first thirteen months of her life lying in a tiny crib, with only one caretaker for her and the other 27 little girls around her. Her hunger for love and affection would have to wait.

 

My wife Claudia and I, along with our two older children, traveled to China and adopted her when she was thirteen months old. It was a long and difficult wait, with fund-raising projects and piles of paperwork to wade through. At one point, I walked across Death Valley, California, with my two older children, selling our miles to anyone who would invest even a nickel. We felt it was not too difficult to walk through a valley of death in order that a little girl in China might have a chance at life. Since coming into our home, she has proven to be a sensitive and extremely intelligent young lady. I have often joked that we may have saved western civilization by bringing her to America before the Chinese Communists could exploit her amazing intellect and talents.

 

Standing there in the rain, with heavy equipment clanking all around me, my mind raced. How could I answer my little girl’s question without alarming or spoiling even in the slightest her sweet innocence?  I knew that soon enough the harsh realities of this broken world would hurt her, and even break her heart. As much as I wished this could be avoided, I was painfully aware that the “road rashes” of this sometimes cruel, sin-sick world come to us all. I desperately did not want to wound her heart on this particularly rainy September day.

 

Over the blaring noises of Ground Zero I could hear her breathing into the phone, as small children often do, patiently waiting for my answer to her question. Taking a deep breath, as my eyes swept over the smoldering wreckage just feet away where thousands lay trapped, I answered. “Honey, some really mean bad guys made a big mess here in New York City, and I’m just helping to clean it up.”

 

There was a pregnant pause on the phone as she thought about this. Then, in her sweet, innocent voice, she replied; “Daddy, can I come with my little broom and help you?”

 

bruce-sits-gzMy knees became weak. I plopped down in the mud as her words sank in. I tried to respond, but the effort to choke back sobs made it impossible to speak for several seconds. Finally, I mumbled something about how much her mommy needed her at home to help clean up the messes there. My heart was breaking. Barely managing to suppress my emotions, I thanked her for calling and told her I loved her before hanging up. She seemed happy just to talk to her daddy. However, I felt like I had just had a phone call from God. He had just spoken powerfully to me through my precious little girl.

 

Slipping the cell phone back in my bunking jacket and despite my best efforts not to, I began to weep uncontrollably. There in the rain, sitting in mud that was mingled with the disintegrated bodies of thousands of innocent people, I realized that little Hannah had just expressed as clearly as human language could describe exactly how I felt at that moment. For all I knew, whatever training and willingness to serve I possessed, all I had managed to bring to this horrendous disaster was a “little broom.”  I am certain that most of the people around me, frantically sifting through that horrible rubble, felt the same way. The need was so great; the loss so overwhelming, that nothing we did seemed very significant. This was especially true in that we could not find anyone alive.

 

All I had was a “little broom” to help clean up millions of tons of twisted wreckage, shattered dreams, and broken hearts. The feeling of insignificance and helplessness to make any real contribution was almost overwhelming. I felt like I was being sucked down a long, dark well of despair. It was as if a fissure in the rubble had opened up under me, and the pile had sucked me down some dark void.

 

At that moment of deepest depression, a sudden realization came over me. This situation was not in the slightest bit about me! It was about tens of thousands of broken-hearted ground-zero-1children and parents and husbands and wives and friends living in a traumatized city who were facing a long future of crying themselves to sleep each night, longing for someone they loved who would never come home again, ever. It was about people in this city looking up every day at a gaping void in their skyline, bereft of the gleaming towers, and reliving the memory of that horrible day in September.  

 The loud metallic clanking of one of the cranes dragging a huge chunk of twisted metal out of the rubble pulled my broken heart out of the rubble of my dark broodings and back into the moment. Scrambling to my feet, and feeling a little embarrassed about my emotional display, I wiped the tears from my face with a grimy glove and looked around. The people nearby seemed to ignore me, pressing into the work at hand, but I’m certain they could relate. Some things don’t need much explanation in the fellowship of suffering.

 

Wandering back toward the makeshift morgue tent near the World Financial Center where I had worked for several days previous, I thought again of the medical and support teams I had met there who were enduring the horrifying task of processing and cataloguing the hundreds of body-parts we were bringing in. A weeping firefighter Chaplain would again take his “little broom” there for awhile, seeking to comfort, encourage, and try and sweep away a little of the filth of that horrible place from their souls. A “little broom” can do something useful if made available.

 

Even a little girl from China was sharp enough to know that.

 

 

 

Brothers in Grace at Ground Zero

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me
I wish none of this had ever happened ……

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times,
but that is not for them to decide.
All you have to decide
is how to use the time that is given to you.

J. R. R TOLKEIN The Lord of the Rings

 

 

Fighting exhaustion and impending nausea, I stumbled from the examination room of the field morguebruce-walks-gz next to the rubble of the World Trade Center. It had been a long day and I desperately needed rest.

 

There in an adjacent tent, two young Catholic priests sat, freshly arrived, and looking very intimidated. Hardly into their twenties, it was an easy assumption that they were newly ordained, and like all of us, extremely uncomfortable with what was happening in that tent of unspeakable horrors. I felt sorry for them. Such places cruelly rip out whatever might remain of youthful innocence. I’d lost mine in Vietnam over thirty years before, and compassion welled up within me for them. We were in the middle of a waking nightmare.

 

I shuffled over to them. “Hi Fathers. How are you?” (It seemed a bit strange to address such young men as “Fathers”) Looking at each other, one said nervously; “We were sent to administer the Sacrament of Last Rites, and bring what comfort we may.” Searching their eyes, I could see that these young men were overwhelmed, and understandably so. We all were.

 

Glancing back into the exam room, I shuddered as I thought about what they were about to walk into. They were nearly the same age as my own son, and I wished I could protect them. What was in that room was something no seminary could ever prepare them for. My thoughts drifted…

 

I had labored several days among the forensic Garcinia Cambogia and Medical Examiner teams. The putrid air inside the morgue was sticky with the heat and humidity of a late New York City summer. In spite of my biohazard mask, the stench of death assaulted my senses, and my mind recoiled at the sight of the decomposing body parts of my fellow Americans on the stainless steel tables.

 

hugsA firefighter standing next to me one day sobbed softly, and I reached over and put a gloved hand on his grimy shoulder. Glancing up and seeing “Chaplain” on my helmet, he nodded his thanks wordlessly through bloodshot, tear-filled eyes. He had just brought in the fragmentary remains of a fellow firefighter from the smoking ruins outside. Bits of turnout gear still clung to what remained of our fallen brother. Our grief was unspeakable. Few words exchanged—few required.

 

Their examination ended and the remains were tenderly slid into a small bio-hazard bag. The Medical Examiner looked at me and said softly, “Chaplain?” Her eyes, peering over her mask, seemed to say; “We’ve done all we humanly can. Now we look to God.” Glancing around for a Priest to give Last Rites, or a Rabbi to say Kaddish, we would each participate in ministering. Without forensic evidence to determine religion, we tried to cover every possibility for the sake of the family.

 

In a repeated ritual, a U.S. Flag was unfurled, and gloved hands reached out to help cover the stretcher holding our brother. Tenderly, we tucked the edges of the flag around the stretcher like a mother lovingly tucking a child into bed. I prayed. “Thank you Father, for a life given while saving others. There is no greater love…”

 

final-salutesFirefighters and officers carefully lifted the stretcher. Leading the small procession, I exited into the street toward a waiting ambulance. As the flag-draped bier came into view, hundreds of people working outside instantly stopped everything, formed lines, and snapped to attention. Only the sound of electrical generators broke the silence. “Hand salute!” Someone barked. Tearfully, I saluted and stood at attention to one side as they placed the stretcher into the ambulance. Everyone stood silently, holding their salute to their fallen comrade. The doors closed, and the ambulance slowly slipped away into the darkened streets. Finally someone shouted; “Order salute!” and everyone returned to their work.

 

Emerging from my reverie, I turned back to the two priests before me. My heart broke for them. “Fathers,” I said, “Your service to our Messiah in this terrible place is honorable.” Glancing at each other again, they seemed to relax a bit as I continued. “With your permission, I would like to pray for you.” Their eyes widened a bit at this, for I suspect it is rare that anyone ever offers to pray for a priest. They are, after all, assumed to be the ones who do the heavy-lifting regarding ministry. Tonight, the ministers needed encouragement. “Well, thank you, yes, that would be very kind of you,” they said tentatively.

 

Kneeling down in front of where they were sitting, I clasped their hands and began to pray for their strength to face the challenges of service there, asking our Father in Heaven to protect and give the assurance of His love for them as they reach out to bring the comfort of Messiah to others. I prayed for their empowerment as instruments of His grace far beyond all they could ask or imagine, and that Yeshua would be seen in their faces as they ministered.

 

God’s presence seemed to fill the room, and I began to sob with the pent-up pain of the previous days. Looking up, both of the priests were also weeping. Spontaneously we stood and hugged in an embrace of fellowship in the Spirit. In this place of suffering, we stood together. These young priests—willing to walk into the bowels of hell to minister to their flock—became true heroes in my eyes that night. So were they also in the Heavenly Father’s eyes.

 

Walking out into the deep darkness before dawn, I tried to glimpse the stars, whose twinkling orbs often give me comfort. Finding none in the glare of search lights, I gazed at the mountain of smoking, twisted steel, and the billowing clouds of smoke rising from the “pile.” Steelworkers cut away the rubble with torches, making bright fountains of sparks. I whispered a prayer of thanks that the stars still shone brightly somewhere far above. A new day would soon dawn for us all. Come quickly, Lord Yeshua!

ff_angels1