And for the next few minutes we shuffled the usual stack of words and phrases back and forth, men trying to remain men in the face of the overwhelming. But then, one of them, the bigger of the two, maybe six-one, 230 pounds, stopped, his face lost what little edge it had been able to maintain, and he said, "You know, I was molested as a boy. And I've been an alcoholic most of my life. I've been off the booze now for about fourteen months."

A little taken aback by the confession, I managed, "I'm pleased to hear that part of it."

His partner, seeing the conversation beginning to go where he didn't want it to go, said, "Well, I got problems too, but I'll talk about 'em later," and he turned, and I saw his eyes fill with tears. At that moment his cell phone rang and he took the opportunity to bury his pain in that call.

The first firefighter went on, "My life's a real mess. I gotta talk."

And so we did.


Your Ground Zero


I've been in the ministry thirty-two years and have done a lot of counseling. It generally takes some time for someone to trust a counselor enough to reveal something that personal, that devastating about their past, yet this man opened up to us within less than ten minutes.

For that firefighter (and probably for thousands, maybe even millions of others) the tortured chaos of Ground Zero and the way it occurred - quickly, stealthily, taking the everyday and making it a sinister weapon against us- touched and exposed a "Ground Zero" in his own life. That time when his foundations were shaken, when the world around him crumbled, when those elements of his life he held dear and saw as his protection from evil turned against him and became the very thing they were to protect him from. God was at work within that dear man. How He worked remains between the two of them, but that He worked affirmed a great hope within me.

All of us experience Ground Zeros in our lives, great losses that shake our foundations, our lives, our faith - loss of career, loved ones, marriages, children, grandchildren - times in our lives when we are overwhelmed by tragedy or just the sheer magnitude of events, when we feel helpless and it seems that the great towers of our lives are about to crumble into a heap of ruin, crushing us beneath them.

While at Ground Zero I saw countless people dealing with all elements of that horrific attack just as, in my pastoral ministry, I've seen so many dear people deal with the Ground Zeros they've encountered. And I've come to know that just as 9/11/01 was a watershed moment for our country, other Ground Zero events are watersheds in the lives of God's people. They can either make or break a life.

I don't mean to be trite at this moment. My point is serious. Remember the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty"? Sure you do. We've all learned it from diaper days.