God can be found in the unlikeliest of places, even in the heart of deepest darkness. Andrea Raynor, a chaplain in New York, was a witness to this at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of September 11. She took regular shifts at the on-site morgue, the first stop for remains recovered from the wreckage. There, she blessed the dead while also ministering to the people who showed up day after day for the terrible work of cataloging the bodies.
A Harvard Divinity School graduate, Raynor offered compassion and an ear to men and women suffering from guilt or post-traumatic stress or simply exhausted and overwhelmed by the task at hand. Every night Raynor also left behind a husband and two worried young children and had to contend with the toll her work was taking on them.
In this moving and inspiring essay, Raynor explores the ongoing choice she faced while fulfilling this difficult duty: Should she return for another shift? Could she return without falling into despair? Through her faith, she was able to serve those who needed her most. And in the face of tremendous horror and heartbreak, she saw that hope and decency were not lost, as signs of humanity and healing continued all around her.