The Face of Evil, The Voice of God
THE FACE OF EVIL:
Evil: mental dysfunction, spiritual oppression, or an amalgam of both? I learned in my pastoral counseling class that Dr. David Entwistle notes that the effects of the Fall are pervasive and we often fail to perceive them as they are ingrained in the fabric of our lives. Quite so.
Nonetheless the cloth rips in a tragic and aberrant manner that travels throughout the framework of the world and renders it irreparably damaged.
We live in a world of opposites in opposition expressed most often in the sin, soul, and supernatural realms. Miracles reflect and illustrate God’s Divinity; acts of cruelty reflect the enemy and man’s susceptibility to his Fallen influence.
I was in Lower Manhattan when the first WTC bombing occurred. I was waiting for a friend for lunch. Normally we met in the Trade Center as she worked at the World Financial Center and it was a midpoint for us both. But we had started to wait at the restaurant a month prior.
I was there for half an hour and wondered why she was so late. Suddenly someone comes into the restaurant and says the Trade Center had been bombed. I called my friend at her office and she was unable to leave the building: everyone was told to stay inside.
I literally ran from the restaurant to the subway station, jumping over fire hoses. I must have managed to get the last train leaving the area. I did not stop once, and actually went from the turnstile down the stairs and onto a train without breaking my stride. When I arrived home and saw the carnage on the news I was astounded. I learned later that where we met was where the bomb exploded in the garage below.
Fast forward a few years and I am planning a conference to be held in Oklahoma City. I am on a business trip in Iowa when someone says there has been a bombing in Oklahoma City. I get back to Washington, DC and my Arab cab driver is angry that everyone assumes it is an Islamic extremists. Somehow I knew it wasn't and said so. This was home grown.
I get home and learn that the woman in Oklahoma City I planned the conference with and never met was seen on television being carried out bloody. But alive.
When I am at the conference two weeks later, I see what looks like a bombed out war zone around the building. I turn back overwhelmed with emotion because it was far worse in person than on television images, but with a colleague return to pray for the dead a few days later.
That day I go to a tour of historic homes a mile away from the bombing site, and the glass in the windows is cracked from the impact. As I said, the pictures on television never did the harm justice.
We arrive a few days later to pray, and the shift changes of recovery workers has started. I will never forget the look in the eyes of those leaving who I know now were experiencing PTSD and those entering who were steeling themselves. It was total silence: you could hear the wind blow.
One of the men leaving turned back to meet my eyes as I stared shocked at what I saw as if to say, yes it is as horrible as you think it is in there. I will never ever know if he was one of the recovery workers who killed themselves shortly thereafter.
Fast forward again and I am working in Arlington, Virginia. All summer I am having nightmares about the baby shown in the fireman's arms from Oklahoma City. I write in my diary, Bailey what are you trying to tell me?
On September 11th I knew.
When my secretary comes late with an ashen face, she tells us the Pentagon was attacked. We are forced to flee the area as we do not know if further attacks will happen.
The security guard in the lobby asks who did this and I say Osama Bin Laden because he has been promising it since 1997. And I had always believed him from the moment I saw him on Nightline making that promise.
My secretary drives me home as the metro is not an option. In the car I hear the announcer say the first tower has fallen. I am in disbelief.
I ask my secretary, Laurie, if I am hallucinating because I thought he said it was demolished. She quietly confirms it.
I did not hear about the second tower because I was on emotional lock down after that.
In the first Trade Center bombing tragedy of 1993, I turned down a job in the Towers a year before the explosion. I was not standing where I had stood for over a year waiting for my friend just above the bomb epicenter.
In the second attack of 9/11, my sister worked at the Pentagon but was not in the office that day. Her office was on the side hit but they had moved to the other end of the complex during renovations.
I missed the Oklahoma City bombing of the 1990’s by two weeks, and my colleague who was severely wounded lived by the Grace of God.
But my Board member's daughter was not so fortunate.
So I know there is a God and angels like those recovery workers in Oklahoma City and Ground Zero.
But I have also confronted the face of evil.
THE VOICE OF GOD
“What we call self-consciousness is a terrible misnomer. To truly be Self-conscious is to be God-realized. Our real identity is founded in Spirit; everything else is a passing story.”
“The very fabric of our being is one with the One that is the perfection of this universe; the power, the wisdom, the glory, the grace. “
The World Trade Center has always been a marker for me as I traveled from college at Princeton University. When I saw the towers I knew I was within the parameters of home. The first time I drove along the New Jersey Turnpike after 9/11 I looked for them instinctively. When I realized that I would never see them again: I wept.
In 1992, I was a professional with an office in Lower Manhattan. Suddenly, I was thrust into a dark night of the soul that rivaled Picasso's Blue Period. I was besieged with daunting challenges in every sphere of my life, and was battling two health issues that eventually found me on the cancer ward of a major hospital.
The day I received the notice of my serious health risk I was on the way to my office. I had scheduled the doctor’s appointment before work, which was not a wise decision in retrospect. I was walking through the streets of lower Manhattan in tears and unashamed to shed them. I thought I was the recipient of a death sentence.
And then, hand on the Bible, as I passed Saint Paul's Church a voice that I know was God said "Come and Talk to Me." I was not a religious person at the time and had not attended church in decades, but the voice was insistent. I entered the nearly empty church and wept as I poured my heart out to that loving voice. I suddenly felt comforted and at peace.
I underwent pre-surgery treatments that made me absolutely miserable. From that first visit on until my surgery I went to Saint Paul’s weekly during my lunch hours. It was my sanctuary.
The last day of work before I left on medical leave for the surgery that left me incapacitated for two months, was the day I was to meet my friend for lunch and then go home. I had suddenly decided to only work half the day.
That was the day of the first bombing of The World Trade Center. And as I said in my other story on this site, I normally met her in the shopping concourse directly above where the bomb went off in the garage below.
I know that voice and that presence saved my life by moving us from that meeting place.
And I am equally certain that this presence and that voice saved me from death on that cancer ward.
Years later after the bombing of the Twin Towers I told my colleagues in Arlington that I would be devastated to find that my church, Saint Paul's, had been lost. But when I learned it survived unscathed and that it was a sanctuary for the rescuers I smiled.
It had always been a sanctuary for me.
Three years later I am in Taos, New Mexico with a friend whom I met in the middle of Hurricane Hugo waiting for a commuter bus home to Montclair, New Jersey. On our first brunch together we both mentioned wanting to live in Santa Fe and she made that dream come true for herself as she was closing on a house that week and I was there for moral support.
We had an amazing mystical experience on the drive to Taos to visit the shops. You would not believe me if I shared it with you.
We visit a rare print shop and as I look through the prints, I find one of Saint Paul's Church from the 1800's.
It became mine.