Our Inspiration

Director's Monthly Letter

To Ground Zero

 “Ground zero” in military term refers to a point on the earth surface that is directly above or below the center of a nuclear explosion.  Thus, ground zero is often associated with disastrous events.  In recent American history, “ground zero” is identified with the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. 

This past week, on my way to visit the Jesuit scholastics studying in New York, I spent a morning at the once devastating site, now revitalized as the 9/11 Memorial & Ground Zero.  Leaving the subway, I was immediately drawn to the Oculus, a white building with the name which means “eyes” in Latin.  While inside, I found myself gazing up to the white circular design, mesmerized by how the space was structured.  One moment, I thought as if I was navigating in the belly of a whale; the next moment, standing inside a giant boat; yet another moment meditating in one of Gaudi-inspired cathedrals.  Streams of light from all sides of the open structure descended upon the flow of tourists, travelers and workers below, coming and going in various directions, enlivening the place….

Next to the Oculus, the 9/11 Museum which displayed some of the most horrific images of the destruction as well as heroic acts of responders and public workers stood as a testimony for what had happened.  Further down, the twin waterfall pools, true to their designers’ inspiration to represent the “absence made visible,” brought tears to grieving family members whose beloved’s names were inscribed on the edge of the pools.  On the outside, the Oculus looked like a bird about to take a flight from the hands of a young boy, inspiring all to hope and to believe that this city and its people will rise again.  

Walking around the 9/11 Memorial & Ground Zero truly was an eye-opening experience for me.  I am still in awe over how all the artists and engineers have created this space for people to find hope in time of desolation, to encounter life in the midst of death.  Visiting the Memorial has moved me into the spirit of the Lenten Season, where all of us Christians are called back to each of our own ground zero, to re-enter into the belly of solitude, to re-examine our own destructive tendencies, to cry over our pain, to grieve our losses, so to lift our hearts and souls towards a future in the resurrection. 

by OIS Director Hung Pham, SJ

New York, 02/21    

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