September 3, 2021

Never forget: Remembering 9/11

Life’s haunting question and God’s healing answer

By John Shaughnessy

The question is a haunting one, echoing through the ages whenever tragedy strikes.

Emily Trinkle was among the many people who asked the question again on Sept. 11, 2001—as she watched the televised replays of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City falling from the sky and crushing the lives of so many people, so many families.

“How can I have faith in a God who allows this to happen?” she found herself thinking.

Yet just as quickly, she says, her thoughts turned to another question, “How can I afford not to?”

In the days that followed the horror of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, Trinkle found herself “watching for and acknowledging” signs of God at work amid the tragedy.

Her initial list included the sight of two metal beams in the debris forming a cross, and the reality that St. Paul’s Chapel, directly across the street from the World Trade Center, suffered no physical damage, not even a broken pane of glass.

There was also the story of the heroics of Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, the chaplain of the Fire Department of New York—how he initially prayed over dead bodies in the streets on the morning of 9/11, and then rushed to provide aid and prayers to people in the North Tower, where he and others were killed by falling debris from the South Tower.

At every turn, Trinkle learned of more heroes, including the passengers on Flight 93 who joined together to stop the terrorist plan to crash another plane into the White House or U.S. Capitol Building, and all the volunteers from across the country who rushed to New York to help.

“There were other things, if people stopped and recognized them,” says Trinkle, a former resident of New York City who is now a member of St. Mary Parish in New Albany, where she is also a program director for St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities.

“Phone calls from inside the towers getting through the clogged lines so people could say a final goodbye to wives and parents and kids.

“The man who had a fight with his teen daughter causing him to be late for work in the World Trade Center.

“People missing flights or subways or carpool rides and therefore not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“The countless stories of strangers helping each other out of the debris of the collapsing buildings.”

For Trinkle, they all add up as evidence of God’s presence—of his providence amid the tragedy and the heartbreak.

“His signs are there big and small,” she says. “9/11 has taught me to stop and look for the small ones, to recognize them and to appreciate them.” †

See more of our coverage of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

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