I recently found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers as we gathered on the National Day of Prayer in search of comfort. The awful events of September 11 left the world and its inhabitants changed forever, and I felt within myself the need to be near familiar things. Maybe it’s ironic, then, that I found a seat near the back of someone else’s chapel (mine for the day, I suppose), but it was close by my office and served my purpose. Hymns, prayers, a distant bell, a collective silence all gave me strength and perspective. It helped.
Although I knew just one person in that congregation of 400 or so, I found strength in numbers. I wondered as I sat there in silence if you felt a similar need to be a part of a community gathering, and I hoped, if you did, that you had a place to go. I regretted that time did not allow me to invite you to a local service if you were interested.
In the face of these tragic events, I don’t have any great pearls of wisdom to offer. Much has been said already more eloquently than I could ever say it. I pray that you were not touched directly . . . but I misspeak. We all were touched directly—this I know. Perhaps I should simply say that my hope is that you knew no one personally who died that day, and that you had the good fortune of being near those you love as you watched the events unfold.
As I have contemplated the deaths of so many innocent people, my mind has returned again and again to a wonderful hymn which has comforted me and helped me draw upon reservoirs of faith. I pray that these words may provide you some comfort too as we all search for peace and solace in the face of tragedy:
Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart, searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows, where when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand? He, only one.
He answers privately, reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind, Love without end.
“Where Can I Turn for Peace?,” by Emma Lou Thayne