On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had just gotten home from a 24-hour shift when I sat in my home office and watched the day’s events unfold on TV. After nearly 30 years serving with the fire department, I thought I had experienced everything people could do to themselves or others. But this was different.
That day, my wife and I tried to help get information over jammed telephone lines and through SMS about missing Pentagon workers to their families. Then I was sent to the Pentagon the week after the attack, to work in support of Virginia Task Force 1.
As we stood in the security line waiting to be credentialed, the building was surrounded by soldiers along the fence line, weapons at the ready. We were very close to where the plane had skidded across the ground before striking the building. I felt a wide range of emotions, from sadness to rage, and even gratitude for being selected to help with the search.
The highs and lows of that week were beyond anything I had experienced. Our first steps were to rescue anyone still trapped and to shore up the building, making recovery efforts safer. We found plane parts and body parts. The aircraft’s black box. A small child’s hand. All work was stopped any time an aircraft was detected in the no-fly zone. The flag was draped across the building with honor and respect.
Processing these experiences mentally has not been easy. I still break down in tears each anniversary of 9/11. During that week, I met other Christians serving with area fire departments and police, and we tried to keep spirits up and to be a source of strength.
We help first responders process and grieve their experiences, so that they can love others and live fully. The Holy Spirit is offered as the cure for broken hearts and worried minds.
It was this experience, as well as serving on multiple missions trips, that led me to pray about entering ministry. I wanted to give back to those who serve. I now serve through the Foursquare Fire/EMS and Disaster Relief Chaplains. I am one of nine chaplains and aid the same fire department of which I once was a member.
Chaplains are a “ministry of presence”—we are there for weddings, burials, memorial services. We help first responders process and grieve their experiences, so that they can love others and live fully. The Holy Spirit is offered as the cure for broken hearts and worried minds.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28, NIV).
We are the safe place.