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A Chaplain’s Response to 9/11

Tomorrow will mark the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Since I’m a fire chaplain, my Facebook page will be inundated with 9/11 remembrances. As in the past, I expect to see some angry comments. But I wonder, when does this become unhealthy?

As a chaplain I feel I’m held to a higher standard than some are, not only by my God, but, it seems, by the community at large. In this case, what response is appropriate and helpful? When does my anger about what was done need to become forgiveness for those involved?

I’m not saying that we trust those who want evil for us. I’m not saying that justice not be done. But anger can consume us. Where is the forgiveness that heals the nations? Maybe we need a heart check here.

Firefighters and police officers are usually not very trusting or forgiving folks. Many have become jaded from all the negative calls they go on, often responding to the same people over and over. I’ve been there. It’s hard to give empathy or even compassion to some of those “frequent fliers” who continue to lead a lifestyle you know leads to destruction or hurts the weak or innocent.

Darrin Patrick, Pastor at Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant, tweeted a good thought the other day: “In unrighteous anger you want pain and you want punishment. In righteous anger, you want redemption, you want restoration.”

Can we remember the courage and sacrifice shown on 9/11 which emboldens the next generation, without focusing on the hate and bitterness that made it necessary? Can we look towards healing?

I’m not sure what redemption and restoration look like. I didn’t know any of the 9/11 attackers and I will never know those still alive who were part of it. So, it must start in my heart. I need to choose redemption and restoration and ultimately love (See Matthew 5:9).

Here’s one way I’m choosing to respond. Tomorrow I will join firefighters from all over South Carolina and around the nation to remember those who lost their lives on that day 17 years ago. As I participate in the Silent Walk in Charleston, I will choose to remember the sacrifice and lives lost of almost 3,000 people, including a New York fire chaplain and 342 other New York firefighters, 23 New York police officers, and 37 Port Authority officers. I will also remember those who lost their lives in a field in Pennsylvania and on the attack at the Pentagon and those who lost their lives battling cancer from the dust and ash in the aftermath. I will honor their love for their work and how much they cared for their fellow man.

Chaplain Chris Wade

Vice President

South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association

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