We finished 1 Samuel in our Bible study this evening, and as usual, folks started asking what I was going to write about in my post. Of course, I normally don’t know for sure until I sit down and start, but today has been a hectic day, full of things I had to get done, mostly without a break, and I had not even begun to think about what to write about.
People started suggesting topics and, of course, suddenly I was deluged with things to write about – particularly with Sunday marking the 10th year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. I thought that I should address the event in some way, but frankly, we all have heard the story so many times that I really didn’t want to do any of the traditional stuff. Not that it has gotten old, but we have heard the stories from so many different angles – and you know that I like to be different.
Then it happened. Random chance? Divine intervention? I don’t know, but Janet remarked that we are having a memorial service at church this week-end and honoring first responders as heroes of our community. As she was talking, a small card fell out of her Bible – something that we received at church after the attacks occurred – a decade ago. She had forgotten that it was there, yet she uses the Bible every week. For some reason, it just fell out. No bigger than a business card, it read,
“Jean Marie Wallendorf – Age 23 – New York, N.Y. – World Trade Center.”
I could probably stop right now. I’m sure you know what I am going to say next. She was a victim of the attacks, and by chance, Jean Marie is the name of the person we drew at that memorial service. The back of the card asked us to pray for her loved ones. Specifically, that they: Find comfort and peace in God’s arms, that they sense God’s presence in their lives and respond to His love, that they work through the grief and anger over their tragic loss (releasing it to God), and that God will surround them with others whose lives reflect a vibrant and true image of God.” That’s a pretty tall order for someone who just lost a family member in the World Trade Center.
Before I go on about Jean Marie, or Jaime, as her grandfather nicknamed her, I want you to know that there have been several times in my life when I was afraid that one of our children was very sick, or dying, or already dead. There was the time when Kristin was very young and she had severe abdominal pain, every several minutes, around the clock, that even woke her out of a deep sleep. It was very scary, the doctors could not tell what was wrong, and just before she was being readied to go into emergency exploratory surgery, the pain stopped. They never did find the problem – but the pain never came back.
Or when I was driving to the office one day, after Andrew had begged me to ride his black bike to school, and there was a terrible traffic jam. I was told that the hold-up was due to a boy on a black bike, who had been hit, was unconscious, and in fact, may have been killed crossing the street to school. I remember stopping the car in the middle of the street and running to the site of the accident to see if Andrew was dead. It was another boy on a black bike; and he turned out to be okay. Thank God.
Or when Andrew went in for routine adenoid surgery, and the doctors told us, while he was still in recovery, that they were pretty sure that he had cancer. Biopsies later revealed that he did not have cancer, but that was the longest two weeks of my life. Or when Jill and I were in a severe accident, hit by a motorist late for work. Jill was knocked unconscious while I remained slightly alert. As I looked over to the passenger side of the car, Jill had been severely injured, and I was sure that she was dead. No kidding. After arriving at the hospital by ambulance, we both had rather massive head wounds. Mine required 250 sutures – Jill needed more than 600 to put her face and head back together. Really scary stuff, and other than my ongoing back problems, we both survived – things could have been much worse – but the car was totalled. So I can’t imagine, nor do I want to imagine, what it would be like to lose a child.
Tonight, I felt that it was important to learn about Jamie. She was born on Aug. 7, 1978, and was the oldest of 5 children. She had one sister and three brothers. She was born in Brooklyn, then lived in southern Florida and had moved back to New York to work. She was unmarried, but dating someone, and happened to work in the World Trade Center. After the first plane hit, she called her mom to let her know that she was alright. She was in the other tower – of course, minutes later, Jamie’s tower was hit as well. Christine, Jamie’s mother, has posted messages on a website each year since Jamie’s death. So have several other people. Jean Marie was named after two favorite relatives on her mother’s side of the family, and by all accounts, Jaime was fun to be around. A hard worker, she was loved at the office. I don’t know much more about her than these scarce details, but I was drawn to find out about her this evening – and it is not lost on me that she is somebody’s child….
The verse for tonight? Psalms 139:16, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” I’ve used this Psalm before, but there is so much there that it is hard to ignore such a powerful piece of Scripture. My encouragement tonight is to know that we will never understand all God’s ways – or why so many people died on 9/11/01. But God is a God of love, and we need to remember that. And my prayer is that you may take a moment between now and Sunday, and send up a special prayer for the family of Jean Marie Wallendorf. I know there are many others as well, but if you don’t know somebody specific, please consider praying for this one family. Perhaps we can make a difference in their lives. It may have been 10 years ago, but their lives changed permanently that day. And we know that God answers prayer. And while we are at it, perhaps being a little more grateful for our own sons and daughters may be in order as well. Grace, mercy and peace…