Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Thoughts

Much has been said today about the anniversary of 9/11. I don't know how much more I have to add and there are definitely more articulate and heady authors out there. However - I have a few thoughts from my perspective.

I had a strong and personal reaction to the 9/11 attacks. I have a deep connection to the New York / New Jersey area and considered myself a transplanted yankee all my life - despite my parents dreaded move to the boondocks (Florida) when I was a child. I was born in Wanaque, New Jersey and used to spend my summers with my grandmother and her husband in Butler, NJ, about 40 or so miles from NYC. My grandmother's husband was a milkman. During the days I would go on his route with him to places like Paterson, NJ and Newark, NJ delivering milk. Part of my passion for urban ministry and the poor hearken back to the times I had in Paterson and Newark. I came in contact with the urban poor in a very unique way through those experiences. Both cities are burned out shells of what they once were.

Paterson, Newark, Wayne, all in New Jersey and all almost literally in the shadow of Manhattan. You could see the skyscrapers. The city would fascinate me. I remember staring at the World Trade Center, the Chysler Building and Empire State Building with wonder and awe, dreaming about the city. At night the city was a beacon. Every once in a while they would take me into Manhattan. Even as a youngster I could almost feel the city breathe and pulse with energy. Even as a boy of 10 the city was calling me...

My father was born in Patterson, NJ - my mother in Newark. My grandfather on the Liotti side was a delivery man in Manhattan. He lived in Staten Island - where the Liotti's lived after coming through Ellis Island. Many of them still live in the area. My cousin Michael has a shipping store on 39th and 7th near Times Square. If you're in the area stop by and tell him, "hi" for me. There are many people I admire in NY - guys like Jeremy DelRio, Louie Carlo, Ray Rivera and Dimas Salaberrios. It's been fun getting to know them over the past years.

When I was 18 I went with the ministry I was with, Youth With A Mission, for about a month we lived on Long Island and did outreaches in the metro area. It was in the South Bronx where God confirmed His call to devote my life to urban missions and the urban poor. At times I wonder if God will ever call me back to NYC. I always feel drawn to the area. My wife and son seem to feel the same call. I have no plans to leave Nor Cal right now - we feel happy and blessed to be here. But - sometimes I wonder...

When 9/11 happened I felt a deep sadness, as did much of the nation. I felt as if a close friend was in jeopardy and there was nothing I could do. I turned the TV on right as tower one was falling. I stood there in tears as I watched thousands die in an instant. I remember the time I took the PATH train across the Hudson to the station under the WTC.

Many of my family worked on Wall Street as floor traders. They were on the floor during the attacks and their lives were forever changed. Two quit, most of the others are planning their exit. They told me harrowing stories of the desperate sprint to the waterfront to catch the ferry or anything out of lower Manhattan.

I remember looking at the skyline the first time I returned after 9/11. Flying into Newark Airport, looking at the sad gaping hole in the profile, again tears coming to my eyes remembering my youthful days when I would dreamfully look at the Twin Towers.

I remember the summer of '02 talking to the BCM interns who came from NYU. They were still dealing with the affects of the event. Young lives forever changed.

What did we learn? Have we (the US church) changed? 9/11 was a wake up call - a loud alarm bell calling us to remember who we are and what we are called to do.

I'm being training to be a police chaplain. With how busy I am, sometime I wonder why I take on other things. Last night I saw a documentary on CBS about the two French guys who were filming the NYFD and got caught in the middle of the event. It had a remarkable scene with a fire chaplain, Fr. Judge, who was the first recorded death. Here is the now famous picture of him being carried out after the tower collapsed. In the documentary it showed him praying in the lobby of the Twin Towers, just minutes before the tower fell. His very presence offered peace to the fireman who were soon to face their deaths. Jesus was there, with Fr. Judge and the fireman. That's why I'm making space to be a chaplain. I'll be commissioned next month. Pray for me!

I'm praying for New York today. Praying that God will place His hand over the city. I'm praying for revival for NYC. I'm also praying for our city - and that we can find the courage to do what we need to do now - before the next '9/11'

Photos are from here. (Thanks for the link, Rudy)

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