Those who were in the twin towers on 9/11/2001 and lived through it were forever changed. Such is the case for Leslie Haskin, who put her experience into words in her book Between Heaven and Ground Zero. The horror she endured left her with PTSD. Making her way down 36 floors amidst collapsed walls and stairs, shell-shocked people, and dead bodies imprinted her mind with confusion, pain, and fear.
Here is some of what Leslie wrote about her life after 9/11: "I rode an elevator 36 floors and got off in the middle of a lunatic's delusion of justice. The terrorist attacks of September 11 shattered my life and left me with nothing to rebuild...I had flashbacks that caused me to react. They felt as real as being there all over again. I could smell the building. I could hear the bells. I was drawn to roadkill...I was anxious all the time and afraid of my own backyard, convinced that the Taliban was hiding inside my shed...My future was hopeless...I had panic attacks when left alone and anxiety attacks when too many people were around. Sleep was impossible without sleeping pills, which only worked for a few hours." (Pages 122 - 123)
Leslie felt the tug of God on her heart as she went through her healing journey. Psalm 13 became significant to her. It starts with questions: "How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? (Verse 1 - KJV) The Psalm ends with an acknowledgment of God's faithfulness. "But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord because He hath dealt bountifully with me." (Verses 5-6 - KJV) As she healed, the Lord began to speak to Leslie about forgiveness. On one of her morning walks she heard it. "This morning, through the open heart of a CD, there is an insistent yet gentle call. 'Forgiveness is absolute.'"
God's timing is perfect. He knows what we are capable of and when we can do what He desires. Leslie records what happened on her walk: "For the first time, I cried with my whole heart and soul—with abandon—like there was no one else in the world but me, and Islam. I fell to the ground and my knees scraped against gravel. Tears poured down my face. I was weak and divided and I remembered… Everything that I couldn't forget. I remembered what they did. I remembered all that they did—the massacre, the horror, and all the intent. Then...I let go. You see, I knew in my heart that there was no turning back. Because when it is time to leave a place, it is impossible to stay. I was moving on. Forgiveness is not conditional. 'And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.'" (Pages 142 - 144)
Leslie calls the chapter on forgiveness "Light of the World - Into the Heart of Islam." She begins by re-writing a note found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravens Bruck Concentration Camp. Here is what it said: "O Lord, Remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead, remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness."
This brings me to tears. I am sure that our Savior, Jesus Christ, must have a seat of honor for this person in Heaven. What maturity! What insight! What compassion! What love! Whoever this person is, they truly understood what the Lord did for them on the Cross. We should think in a similar way!
Joan E. Mathias