In God We Trust

On September 11, 2001 the world changed forever. Four commercial airliners were hijacked by religious fanatics and caused incalculable damage and human sorrow. Two of those planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. They destroyed those buildings and the lives of thousands of people. I had previously worked at court facilities only eight blocks from these huge buildings.

After the planes struck, but before the buildings collapsed, many New York City and Port Authority uniformed officers rushed into the buildings to assist in the evacuation of the trapped office workers. Several New York State court officers were among the heroes that rushed into the inferno to help. Tragically three Supreme Court Officers never came out when the buildings imploded. They and hundreds of police and fire personnel were lost.

A little over a week after the tragedy I received a memorandum from the state judicial administration requesting the senior judge of each county in New York State to convene a “prayer vigil” in honor of the lost court officers and the other heroes of September 11th. Before the events of that tragic day the mere mention of God in a courtroom was considered politically incorrect; now we were invoking the creator God to comfort, bless and protect all of us who were in some way impacted by the evil of that day.

People had a need to express their grief, their unity and their spirituality.

The convocation was scheduled for a Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. Normally it is difficult to gather a handful of people on a Friday afternoon in any municipal building. I estimate that between 150 and 200 people came to our ceremonial courtroom that afternoon. They came because they wanted to. All the judges and their staffs were present as well as people from the District Attorney’s office, the public defender and virtually every office associated with the judicial system. This was repeated throughout the state that afternoon. People had a need to express their grief, their unity and their spirituality.

As the most senior Supreme Court Justice I had the honor to preside at this solemn gathering. Those assembled, in addition to singing the national anthem, joined their voices in the great hymn “God Bless America.” A fellow judge read the 23rd Psalm. We all bowed our heads in petition to God to deliver us from this nightmare of evil.

Each of us must live our lives fearlessly trusting in God.

In my remarks I pointed to the inscription that is over virtually every court bench in the United States, “IN GOD WE TRUST.” That has never been more appropriate than at this moment. This is the time to place our trust in God because He is the only one that can sustain us, comfort us and deliver us during our hour of need. Truly the world has changed forever yet if we, as individuals and governments, choose to place our trust in God then this change, quite possibly, will be for the better.

The prayer vigil ended that afternoon but our response as Christians to this new world should be a renewed desire to share our knowledge of Jesus with everyone who is searching for order and sanity in the midst of this overwhelming sorrow. I think it was St. Francis that said we should go out each day and preach the gospel and if necessary use words. Each of us must live our lives fearlessly trusting in God. Jesus told us we have the words of eternal life if we know the Father and the one who the Father has sent. (John 17:3)

The world has indeed changed forever. IN GOD WE TRUST!