August 10, 2007


Finding God in Minnesota and beyond

(Listen to this editorial being read)

Sunday, Aug. 5, was a day of prayer for the people of Minnesota as they continued coming to grips with a tragedy felt throughout their state and beyond.

It was also a day for people of all faith traditions to shed more tears, and to hug loved ones, friends and neighbors a little tighter as they reflected upon the precious gift of life that so many Americans and people throughout the world take for granted each day.

The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis on Aug. 1 that resulted in the loss of at least five lives with eight others still missing as this newspaper went to press left many wondering where God was in this tragedy.

The answer—as one Twin Cities area priest shared in a homily at a Mass offered for the victims a day after the bridge collapse—was not easy to come by. But God was there, said Father Robert O’Donnell.

“Where is God?” the priest in residence asked the people gathered at St. Lawrence-Newman Church, the closest Catholic church to the Interstate 35W bridge.

“Perhaps the only answer I can give at this time of tragedy is that I may not know … how it fits into God’s mystery plan, but I know where God was,” he said.

God was in the heart of the civilians who rushed to the scene, eager to help, he said. God was with the rescue workers, medical personnel and those praying for the victims.

Father O’Donnell is right. God was with those individuals, and he was also with the thousands—maybe millions—across the United States and throughout the world who offered their prayers for the victims, their families and the Twin Cities’ communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul as soon as they saw news coverage or heard about this tragic accident. Those prayers, of course, continue and will continue for some time.

Though they are separated by their unique cultural identities, Minneapolis and St. Paul—and the surrounding Twin Cities communities—will now be forever linked by last week’s bridge collapse and how so many individuals helped their fellow brothers and sisters in need.

The stories of Good Samaritans are countless, including the bystanders who rushed to help the 52 children and nine adults on a school bus that sat precariously on a portion of the mangled bridge after the collapse.

While we hear or read of tragedies throughout the world on a daily basis, the ones that happen here in the United States—on our own soil— always strike a particularly close chord.

And invariably, a nation filled with compassionate people is always ready and willing to help its brothers and sisters in need. Turn back the clock to Sept. 11, 2001, or to the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and the snapshots and memories of stranger helping stranger are there in full view.

What these tragedies also show is that the resolve of our nation and its people is undeniable.

Still, why does it take tragedies of epic proportions to bring out the best in so many of us? That question is not an easy one to answer, but it is one we need to reflect on regularly.

What the Minneapolis bridge collapse again demonstrated is how so many people turn to their faith in a time of crisis.

“Something like this shatters us,” Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis told Catholic News Service in a phone interview on Aug. 2. “But as one woman said to me, ‘I don’t know what we’d do without faith.’ It’s the only thing … to get through something like this.”

Indeed, in times like these, for so many of us, faith in God is the only answer.

— Mike Krokos

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