A chaplain for the Iowa State Highway Patrol who was a volunteer counselor at “Ground Zero” still tears up when he hears the bagpipes that’re a part of many of today’s 9-11 memorial observances. He says he attended the funeral for the only female police officer to die in New York, and he says the sound of the bagpipes struck him there as symbol.Chaplain John Harrell was counseling police and fire fighters when the World Trade Center operation switched from a rescue of victims to a recovery of bodies.Harrell says being at Ground Zero was traumatic for everybody, including him.Harrell says the best question he was asked in New York City was “Where is God in all this?” He says when you look at it, the buildings didn’t collapse right away. Harrell was told they were calling Ground Zero “The Gates of Hell” and he agreed once he got there. But Harrell began to see signs of God in the midst of the carnage — like the crosses of steel, which he says, became symbols of hope for the police and fire fighters.Harrell spoke this morning at a school assembly in Des Moines, with a key message for the junior high students.Harrell says everybody faces tragedy in their life and don’t deserve it. He says when that happens, there are ways to get through it, by finding hope in the midst of grief. Harrell says today’s memorial services around the country are cathartic, and there’s nothing wrong with crying.Harrell is the chaplain for the Des Moines Police Department and Mercy Hospital in Des Moines as well as a spiritual advisor for the Iowa Highway Patrol.
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