Remembering Tragedy and Miracles on 9/11

On September 11, we were hit hard. The miracle is how we've been able to move on.

by - Posted on Sep 11, 2012

The "Survivor Tree" from the World Trade Center, September 11

On September 11, 2001, I was a sophomore in college at New York University. I awoke that morning to my roommate standing beside my bed. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center," he said. Still groggy from sleep, I watched the television with bleary eyes. At first we all thought it was an accident. My mother called to tell me it was no excuse to skip class that day. Then we watched in horror as the second plane hit. My mother called back. "Do not go to class," she said, her voice shaking.

My roommates and I rushed outside our building to Union Square, where we confronted a scene I'd never seen before and hope to never see again. The street was filled with people all staring in the same direction, at that horrific billowing column of smoke.

When the towers collapsed, people collapsed in the street, the emotions too heavy to stand. But others gathered around to embrace them and help them up. As the first survivors began to appear from downtown, ash still clinging to their clothes, strangers rushed to offer them water, offer them their cell phones to make calls. My roommates and I bought up bottles of water and whatever other supplies we could to donate to the rescue effort. In Washington Square that evening, with the spotlights of the rescue effots lighting up the night sky just blocks away, hundreds gathered with candles to hold a vigil for the victims.

It had been mere hours since the attack, and Ground Zero was still burning. But already, people were working hard at healing. For those who lost loved ones, the process still continues 11 years later.

It can be hard to see God in the face of a tragedy like this. Why couldn't he stop the attacks? Why couldn't he save just one more life? But the miracles abound. We've shared some of these September 11 stories in Guideposts. The ones who made it out alive, despite tremendous odds. The rescue workers who became heroes that day. The ways in which the families of the victims found tremendous, surprising means of comfort. The fact that despite terror hitting us so close to home, we managed to go on. The scars stay with us... but scars are simply new skin, strengthening us for our next scrape.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation via At the September 11 memorial, these miracles are symbolized by one remarkable object. Not something made by man, though the memorial itself is a beautiful and moving tribute. The object is a pear tree, discovered amid the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center in the days after September 11, its leaves shorn away, its limbs crudely amputated by fallen debris, its trunk burned from the intense flame of the fire. The eight-foot tree was removed from the site and replanted in the Bronx, though nobody expected it to survive.

But the roots took hold. The limbs regrew. Slowly, leaves began to sprout again. In December 2011, the tree was replanted by the memorial. Now 30 feet tall, it bloomed with white blossoms for the first time this spring.

We’ve all grown since September 11, 2001. We’ve all been healed, in different ways. We were burned, scarred, uprooted, but 11 years later, so many of us find ourselves in bloom again. And that’s the miracle.

You can read the stories of survivors, and their families, at this link. Please share with us your own stories about how you've healed, or changed for the better, since that day in September.

Photo credits: New York City Department of Parks & Recreation via (top); Mark Lennihan, AP via

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