Skip to content

Waste Places

September 11, 2016

Fifteen years ago today, the World Trade Center was destroyed in New York City, the Pentagon attacked in Washington, DC, and United Airlines Flight 93 downed at Shanksville, PA.

But the human spirit shone brightly in the days, weeks, and months that followed.

The post below (now updated) was originally published 9/11/12

Ground Zero Cross, Author Samuel Li (CC-BY-2.0)

WARNING: Graphic Images

For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord…” (Is. 51: 3).

Covering 2200 acres and taller than the Statue of Liberty, the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, NY can be seen from space.

At one time the primary waste disposal site for the City of New York, Fresh Kills was closed to dumping early in 2001, but reopened to process the 2 million tons of debris from the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Mass Destruction

“You could not comprehend the massive destruction [at Ground Zero].  Even though there was an enormous amount of toxic debris and smoke, your skin was on fire you couldn’t breathe your eyes were tearing, you just kept going on and on.  You didn’t care – you just wanted to find somebody [1].”

– former EMS Paramedic, Freddie Noboa, now suffering from PTSD, asthma, and many other illnesses

Twisted girders, broken concrete, bricks, glass, shredded paper, and human remains were shipped by truck and barge to Fresh Kills.

A Miniature City

Work at Fresh Kills went on 24/7 consuming over 1.7 million man hours.  A miniature city grew up to accommodate the NYC Police Department, FBI, 25 state and federal agencies, and 14 contractors sorting through the material.

Though recovery workers at Ground Zero toiled without respirators, those at Fresh Kills landfill were provided them, along with safety gear which included protective suits and gloves; goggles; hard hats; and steel-toe boots.

In view of the high stress environment, psychological counseling was, also, made available.

Like Being in Hell

“We found 150 full bodies and 20,000 body parts. It was like being in hell down there – arms, legs, people cut in half – a gruesome job. There were guys down there spitting up blood [2].”

– former FDNY Deputy Chief, Jim Riches, who found his son’s body on “the pile” at Ground Zero in March 2002

Under strict security protocols, piece after piece of material was passed along assembly lines and closely examined.  Thousands of fragmentary human remains were recovered from which 300 persons were identified.  More than 1600 personal effects were retrieved.

Toxic Debris

The toxic debris from the collapse of the Twin Towers was found to contain more than 2500 contaminants.  These included glass and other fibers, asbestos, lead, and mercury.

About 70% of first responders developed cancers and serious respiratory conditions.  Along with EMS and firefighters, construction workers, health care professionals, clergy, and others continue to suffer from medical issues a decade later.

USS New York

Twenty-four tons of steel from the World Trade Center were used to forge the USS New York, a Navy assault ship.

Ground Zero Cross

A 20’ cross made of steel girders presided over Ground Zero throughout the recovery process. Discovered after the Twin Towers went down, the cross – actually prefabricated beams that survived the attack – has been relocated to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum now at the site.

Freedom Tower

Construction of the Freedom Tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as a replacement for the Twin Towers, is well underway. The new tower is already, as of this writing, the tallest building amid the forest of skyscrapers in Manhattan.

The plan is that Fresh Kills landfill will be reclaimed as a wetland and park. A monument is to be built honoring those whose remains may have been interred when the last of the 9/11 debris was buried at Fresh Kills.

Where Was God?

People still ask where God was on 9/11.  Some scars will last a lifetime.  But there is an answer to the question.

God was at the windows.  He was under the desks, and in the stairwells.  He was in the smoke filled rooms, with all those who needed Him.  We cannot know how many more would have perished had He not been there.

Most certainly, He was on “the pile” at Ground Zero, and at the Fresh Kills landfill for the long months afterwards.

Those who sacrificed themselves, so that others might live are with Him now.  But He lives on in those who gave their time, their labor, their talent, their pain, their health and near sanity, so that strangers might know what became of their loved ones.

He was there.  He is in all the waste places – those that can be located on a map, and those on the terrain of the heart.

[1][2]  CBS News, “9/11:  Still Killing” by Radhika Chalasani, 12/10/15,


  1. Monochrome nightmares permalink

    Lest we forget.
    An excellent piece of writing.
    You have me in tears Anna.

  2. I was hoping you would write about that horrific day, dear Anna. Thanks for reminding us that God was there as all hell broke lose just as He was there when Satan had his way with our Father’s only Son that day almost 2000 years ago when the world became dark at three in the afternoon so that we might LIVE both in the body and out of the body by His Spirit within.

    Love IN the Son,

    • I had family and friends in NYC on 9/11, so the event was very personal for me. Lower Manhattan was covered in paper for months. Some of that was debris from the Towers, some of it flyers posted by those searching desperately for their loved ones. The odor of death hung in the air for a long while.

      But I do believe God was present on 9/11. You put it very well, Michael. The Towers stood for close to 2 hours after being hit. 54,000 regularly worked in the WTC. The pass-through population could run as high as 150,000 per day. The death toll was nowhere near that high. Of course, even a single life lost was too much.

      The churches were packed following 9/11. Sadly, that is no longer the case. I hope and pray that our nation may yet turn its eyes back to Him.

      Your sister in Christ,

      A. ❤

  3. Freedomborn permalink

    This is so good Anna and very True as confirmed in the Scriptures below ……..God was at the windows. He was under the desks and in the stairwells. He was in the smoke filled rooms with all those who needed Him. We cannot know how many more would have perished had He not been there.

    Some claim Anna that God planed 9/11 and everything else that happens on Earth good and bad that He willingly allows it to happen, including us being abused as Children or by our husbands and also when we suffer illness and pain and these are not Atheists who say this but people who profess to be Christians, they also say He does evil to bring good out of it but the Scriptures tell us it is slander to even say this about believers, how much more so about God, who is Love and hates all evil.

    Isaiah 43:1-3 “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”

    Jeremiah 29 :11-12 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of Peace and not of evil, to give you a Future and a Hope.

    Lamentations 3: 33 “For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the Children of Men.”

    Christian Love and Blessings – Anne.

    • Thank you so much, Anne — not only for your compliment, but this exposition of God’s love. The verses are a beautiful reminder of God’s care and concern for us.

      The question of why evil befalls good people is one of the most profound. It can be enormously discouraging for the victims of evil, e.g. terrorism or abuse, to feel either that they have been “targeted” by God or that God has failed to protect them in a time of need, despite their faithfulness. The experience can leave a deep wound.

      The Bible makes clear that both these perceptions — however painful — are incomplete pictures of the reality of suffering. God does not direct suffering at good people. Instead, He walks with us through suffering. In fact, He died so that our suffering would ultimately cease. There is no more compelling picture of God’s love than that of Christ’s death on the cross, to save us from sin. That was a voluntary sacrifice on Christ’s part as, of course, you know.

      Where I read Scripture differently than you is in regard to God’s permissive will. There is a good explanation of my views at Christian Bible Reference, “Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering”, Let me try and explain, briefly.

      First, I believe that God is greater than Satan. God is the Creator; Satan, no matter how powerful, is only the creature. This means, as I understand it, that God’s will is ALWAYS paramount. Satan cannot do anything that is contrary to God’s will. If he could, God would not be God.

      Second, we, too, are God’s creatures. Our purpose here is to know, love, and serve Him. Ultimately, that will mean following Him to the cross. God is by definition good and holy. And we have His assurance that the plans He has for us are good. But there will be times we cannot fully understand those plans. Nor should we expect to. God is infinite; we are finite.

      God did not ordain that Joseph be sold into slavery by his brothers or imprisoned for years. However, He remained faithful to Joseph. God used those terrible events not only to shape Joseph’s character, but save thousands from famine. In fact, He continues to use them to encourage us today.

      The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for generations. God did not love them any less during that time.

      Third, we live in a fallen world…not one where we are immune to all hardship or the evil intentions of others, even as believers. If that were not so, free will would have no meaning. But God, in His graciousness, granted us free will. He wants to be freely loved by us. There will always be those who reject Him.

      The challenge of believing in a good and holy God in the face of evil is staggering. But the righteous, I think, give God most glory under evil circumstances. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13: 15).

      It is in suffering that the faith of the righteous shines most brightly. Do we not admire the martyrs? Did God abandon them? Surely not. They reside under the throne of God (Rev. 6: 9).

      Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (far more eloquent than I am) put it this way:

      “Jesus is not just your Exemplar
      As the model to the canvas.
      He is not like oil on your baptismal water,
      But like a blood transfusion in your veins…
      He does not send your pain:
      He sends it to Himself
      As the mother tastes the bitter draught
      Before passing it to childish lips.”

      I find great consolation in this. But it is, I think, something about which Christians can differ.

      Either way, evil will never conquer. The battle rages, but the war was won on Calvary. And we are among the victors.

      With love,

      A. ❤

  4. I’m pleased you appreciated my encouragement Anna and it is True as you shared, we are not alone in our hardship and suffering (Isaiah 43:1-3)

    Sorry it has taken so long to reply to you but time has been very short with my having been in pain since the accident and needing Doctors visits and other responsibilities.

    In response to your reply when I want to confirm God’s Truth Anna, I go to Jesus our only Teacher (Matthew 23:8-10) although I’m often blessed and encouraged by those who share His Truth, they are not my Authority and I always confirm what is shared by them with Scripture (1John 2:26-28 and 1John 5:20 ) and if needed I correct error but not by arguing or even agreeing to disagree but seeking to resolve differences with the empowering of The Holy Spirit (John 16:13 -15) as God asks us to do.

    We can know Anna and understand God’s heart and His good will for us, as confirmed in (1Corinthians2:9-16) and other Scriptures but Job did not know it was Satan that afflicted him as we do, God later showed Job that all good things come from Him not bad and Job apologized, God cannot do evil, He is Love and nor can we when we have His seed and are Perfected in Love(1John3:9)

    God Thankfully does not use suffering and Hardship to shape and mold us, although Trusting Him during these times does strengthen us as He helps us persevere . He hates all evil and His planes for us are good. He gives us opportunities to choose to walk in the Fruit of The Spirit with His empowering and as He did with Joseph and He does with us, works everything for good in our lives when we Trust and obey Him. This is also what He did with Joseph and has done with all His Children. He knows we are His in Eternity, yes before we are even conceived and chooses us to be conformed into the image of Jesus and not one of us will be lost.

    Just as the Prodigal Son did, we will reap the evil we sow until we come to our senses, this is God’s discipline, others in the flesh will hurt us and Satan puts us to the test, he has the right to do this because of the fall, as he did with Job, Jesus and Paul etc and sadly some fall away, it does not bring them closer to God but yes those who follow Jesus will be hated but also greatly blessed for their Faithfulness.

    Thanking you for your time Anna – Blessings – Anne.

  5. Great post Anna! We may never know who is truly responsible for 9/11.. The stories of the rescued..and those who excepted Jesus believing it was their last moment.. and the Bible that was not burned.. were beauty for ashes..

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. So true, about beauty for ashes (Isa. 61: 3). Of course, those who lost friends and loved ones will mourn that loss always.

  6. Your faith and commitment to God shine through in this thoroughly researched and excellently written post. You don’t pretend to have answers to everything and neither should you. But what you do speak about, you voice with a confidence and a strength that is incomparable. Your post is a timely tribute to all of those who were affected by this tragedy – those who perished and those who lived to tell the tale. And if we look through spiritual eyes, we also see God’s tremendous love at work through everyone who gave their time and assistance during this period of loss and uncertainty.

  7. God was indeed there, as you’ve described Anna 😦
    So thankful that He never abandons us in times of trouble! 🙂 💜 Jackie@KWH

Leave a Reply to Freedomborn Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: