Let’s not blame God for tragedies like 9/11

Lorraine Murray’s latest church mystery is “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

“Did you hear what happened?”

My friend’s face was somber as I approached the circulation desk in the theology library where I was working.

“Someone has blown up the Twin Towers in New York,” he said.

It was 15 years ago, but the moment is forever etched on my mind, as I’m sure it is for countless others who struggled to assimilate the impossible and the unbelievable.

TV stations continuously played horrendous images of the explosions, while reporters scrambled to get the story straight.

Was the Pentagon destroyed? How many planes? How many deaths? What next?

That afternoon, I rushed over to St. Thomas More Church in search of something I couldn’t quite articulate.

An explanation for this horrendous evil? Comfort in the face of destruction? Camaraderie? A sense of God’s grace in the midst of catastrophe?

All the above.

I discovered I wasn’t the only seeker when I arrived — and found the church full. Although there was no Mass scheduled, people still flocked to a place they saw as a sanctuary.

Here we could gather and do the one thing necessary when the world threatens to fall apart — which is pray.

The pastor then was the Rev. Frank Richardson, who didn’t pretend to have a pat theological explanation, but instead expressed his own horror and dismay over this tragedy — and then led us in prayer.

I’m guessing that, like me, my readers recall exactly where they were on Sept. 11 — and many of them immediately thought of God.

It’s like that frozen moment in time when you answer the phone and find out your friend has succumbed to a dreaded disease.

You then have a choice — try to pin the blame on God because he didn’t prevent the tragedy or beseech him for the strength to go on.

Human evil and suffering are unshakable facts of life — and have been since that gruesome moment when Cain smashed Abel’s head with a rock.

Still, wars and terrorist attacks resurrect the old question, “Where was God?”

In his book “Night,” Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel recalls the unspeakably cruel acts in a concentration camp, culminating with the hanging of a little boy.

As the prisoners are forced to watch the child’s agonizing death, one cries out, “For God’s sake, where is God?”

In his heart, Wiesel hears the answer: “Where is he? This is where…hanging here from this gallows….”

And where is God today when terrorist attacks kill and maim hundreds of people around the world?

Where is he when churches in the Middle East are bombed and children killed? When a thousand Cains batter the heads of a thousand Abels?

The same place he was on Sept. 11 — among the downtrodden, the devastated and the despondent. He’s hanging from a rope, dying on a cross, surveying the carnage — and wondering whether we’ll ever learn.