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September 11, 2001 | Psychology | Ground Zero | Manhattan | Ecclesiastes

"I am a professor. I am not supposed to cry in front of my students."
The gravity of the 9/11/01 disaster is reason enough to cry without other justification.
"I am a psychologist. I am supposed to maintain a professional distance."
You are a psychologist. You know the importance of crying when it is time to cry.
"Crying should be a personal thing. You (students) should not have to put up with your professors crying in class."
The events of September eleventh affected the world. We all shared in the horror of the attacks. We do not mind if you cry in class because of that.

My professor went to downtown New York two weeks ago, then came back with a report of his experience last week. He shared with our class how he was at ground zero as a chaplain, offering moral support to the diligent firemen. He had a slide show of pictures that he had taken while there. He choked up several times while trying to explain what his role was. He walked with any remains that were found to the makeshift morgue. Each time he started crying, he apologized to us and stood silent awhile; each time I imagined the above exchanges taking place.

But there was more to his role than that. He told us how his instructions were to "just stand there." He then explained that simply having a chaplain stand nearby was enough to raise morale among the firemen. He also explained that he could not go into the site as a psychologist; only Army, FBI, rescue workers, and chaplains were allowed at ground zero.

One of the most amazing (to me) accounts that he told us was of some steel beams that fell from one of the towers into a nearby building. Three beams fell that were of particular notice: all were cross-shaped, and they all fell into an upright position (t-shape). Two of these crosses remained in the building where they fell, the third was removed and taken to a place of prominance and visibility in ground zero. One of the pictures my professor showed was of this cross atop a concrete wall. Huge steel i-beams in the exact shape of a crucifix.

The words of an old Byrds song come to mind, for they are from an even older text:

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what was planted:
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

These words, the 9/11 attacks, the whole situation may be too prevalent, or ignored too much. Let us not forget that there is a time (and a place) for everything.

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