October 9, 2011
The following blog was written by my son, Raymond A.Gough. (I’m Raymond H.). As you read this, keep in mind that he grew up in church. He believed in God. As a result of his involvement in the aftermath of 9/11, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As he mentions, he began to question ” Where was God in all that happened? Does God really exist? And if so, can He really be a good God?” Joan (my wife) hoped and prayed that he would regain his faith. As he explains below, he not only regained his faith, but it has been strengthened. About two years ago he preached a sermon in the church where I was serving as pastor. His sermon that day was in the form of a testimony about how he lost and regained his faith. Since then he has preached a number of times in other churches, and continues to do so. He is taking seminary level courses, is a leader in his church, and is considering becoming a pastor. Over the past ten years our hope was fulfilled and our prayers were answered more than we or he could imagine.
Grace and peace, Ray
September 11, 2001 started off like any other uneventful day. But early that morning the United States discovered this was not going to be just another ordinary day. The first plane had struck the World Trade Center tower and we watched as the second plane struck the second tower. Then came the reports of the plane crashes in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. America was under some sort of attack and we were concerned there would be more attacks, but where and when? The American people were struck by the evil of the world on a major scale.
As Director of Materials Management and a Paramedic for a New Jersey paramedic service, I was placed in charge of logistics to prepare for our service’s response. Our units responded across New Jersey to staging areas to receive and treat the injured. Thousands of walking wounded and people contaminated by dust were coming into Jersey City, New Jersey via ferry boats. The seriously injured were sent to New York hospitals and by 11 p.m. that night we realized that no seriously injured patients would be coming to New Jersey, because there were no more left alive.
On the 14th my search and rescue team was called to go to Ground Zero and on the 16th we were called to the Fresh Kills Landfill site on Staten Island to search debris for human remains and personal items. Our team consisted of seven dedicated members including my wife and myself. Our team served for approximately one month at this site and uncovered human remains from time to time. There were sights that no one should ever have to witness in their lifetime. Our ultimate goal was to identify the remains to provide closure for the families. We were informed that due to our efforts nine victims that would not have otherwise been found were identified by DNA. There was closure for nine grieving families.
My question was “where was God in all of this”? Thus began a long and difficult struggle for me over the next ten years. The first thing I discovered was that the ideas I had about God and the Gospel were not exactly correct. I had to do some serious searching and study to really understand God and the Gospel. However, during those years I finally regained my faith and it was strengthened as I came to discover the truth of what the Apostle Paul says in the Bible (Romans 8:28): “…all things work together for good for those who love God, and who are called according to his purpose”. In other words , during and after the events of 9/11, God was bringing about some good in spite of the evil that took place that day. Now I would like to share some examples of this with you.
As 9/11 was unraveling people began helping each other. Victims helped each other escape danger, they helped those who needed medical treatment, and they gave selflessly of themselves. The First Responders gave selflessly of themselves, thinking only of the victims that needed to be evacuated and treated. All of these professionals gave something. Some gave all. Beginning that day, rescue workers, construction workers and volunteers from all over the country began to converge on New York City to assist in any way they could. People lined West Side Ave. and cheered, waved signs and thanked the responders on their way in and out of Ground Zero. One man offered his apartment to any responder who needed a place to rest. Donations of every type were delivered where required. Restaurants donated food to provide for the responders and volunteers helped to serve.
At Fresh Kills Landfill the generosity of the American people continued. Counselors were available to debrief workers as needed. Chaplains served side by side with the workers while they searched the piles, speaking words of strength and endurance to help them keep going emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Red Cross ladies were there greeting the workers coming off the piles just to give them a big hug and say thank you. A local Port Shelter for sailors kept its doors open indefinitely for the workers to eat, shower and rest.
There were letters of thanks and hope from children across the country, with pictures they had drawn for the workers. One that I remember well was made by young children and it said, “let our tiny little hands fold up your heavy hearts”. It was clear that people appreciated the workers dedication and service. Everyone was trying to do something, whether it was actually working at the site or supporting the workers behind the scenes.
I remember soon after that, meeting with my father and mother. My father was the pastor of Vincentown United Methodist
Church in Southern New Jersey. He was feeling guilty that he wasn’t able to help at the site. But the truth of the matter was that he and other members of the clergy of all faiths were doing their part supporting the people in their congregations and others in their towns. Their work was to offer hope and comfort right where they were, because 9/11 affected everyone.
My parents provided my wife and me with strength to continue to do the job God had chosen for us. Both my mother and father have always been there for me and my family and I love them more than I can say. I came to realize how important family is.
These are just some of the ways in which God caused good to prevail despite the evil that took place that day. And God continues to do that. A few years after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana. Once again the American people and First Responders mobilized to help the victims. There are those who feel that America is faced with many troubles these days, and that we are regressing spiritually. There is a lot of truth to that. But over and over again, when disasters occur on a large or small scale, close to home or almost anywhere in the world, you will find Americans pitching in to selflessly serve by giving their time, money, and effort. As long as we continue to exhibit these Christ- like attributes there is hope for better times ahead.
Where was God in the midst of 9/11 and so many other disasters? He was and is with everyone involved, inspiring and enabling them to demostrate the love of God to the world.
May God give you hope,
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