Paul Cartwright reports on the memorial services for the tenth anniversary of the attacks, and reflects on the need for Christians to support those affected by such tragedies
‘I am missing you so much I’m actually crying right now.’
This was a text message which I received on the morning of Sunday 9/11 while I was preparing to go to the British Memorial Garden at Hanover Square, New York. I had gone there as a musician with the West Yorkshire Police Band who had been asked to take part in the British Memorial Service for those who had died in the terrorist attacks in New York on 11 September 2001, and the text was from my sevenyear-old son Ben (via his mother’s phone) after he had watched some of the repeated coverage of the attacks. For Ben, he thought that the coverage on television was live and that New York was not a safe place for his daddy to be, and for those of us who were in New York it almost felt that it was the case due to the massive increase in security.
Active Christian witness
Travelling to New York and taking part in the five days of concerts and remembrance services was a great honour, especially as I was also there as a Chaplain to West Yorkshire Police. To be alongside the members of the band and several hundred other police employees and volunteers who had travelled from the UK at their own expense was a great opportunity to show an active Christian witness and to minister to people in a situation which was quite unique, and yet, was very real. Grief is not confined by time and knows no bounds and modern media means that even those who witness such events from afar do so in real time.
The day after our arrival the band travelled to Hackensack, New Jersey, to take part in a concert for the community, its police service and our own British bobbies who had arrived earlier in the day, and it was while I was preparing to go onto stage that I was called out of the dressing room to meet the local police chaplain who was taking part in a guard of honour at the beginning of the concert. He was dressed in his ceremonial police uniform with little gold crosses on each side of his shirt collar and a pistol on his belt (I wondered what his Baptist church congregation thought whenever they saw their minister dressed in this way).
‘It’s great to meet a British police chaplain,’ he said as I was introduced, ‘I wonder, will you lead us in prayer?’ This was the beginning of my public duties in New York as a chaplain and musician during the trip when I led the prayers for both the living and the dead who had been