It was love at first sight. Tall and statuesque, she cast a beautiful golden glow. To a 23-year-old Florida girl, she radiated the style and energy of my new city, and I wanted to be just like her. I sat on a nearby bench so I could take in all 25 feet and 45,000 pounds of The Sphere.
My newly beloved sat atop a granite fountain in the shadow of the imposing Twin Towers. Standing in her golden gaze for the first time in 1993, I felt as if I had found the beating heart of New York City itself.
I wasn’t sure if the shiny sculpture looked more like a giant globe or perhaps the helmet of a Roman gladiator. Long lines interrupted her smooth circumference, with black forms emerging from her surface like a baby bird from its shell. The Sphere looked different from every angle, and I saw a face, a bird, the moon as I walked around it. I returned to visit The Sphere again and again. She made me feel like I could accomplish anything — and I was sure if I worked hard enough God would make all my New York dreams come true.
In the summer of 2001, The Sphere became my neighbor when my new husband and I moved into an apartment six blocks away from the World Trade Center complex. I was convinced my hard work and occasional prayers had gotten me this wonderful husband and this fabulous apartment, and now the sky was the limit for us. After all, the Lord helps those who help themselves!
But my assurance crumbled on the morning of September 11, when we watched a passenger jet swoop over our heads and slam into the South Tower. Panicked, we ran down 24 flights of stairs in our pajamas. We sought safety in Battery Park, which turned out to be anything but safe when the towers collapsed, covering us with dust and debris while black smoke threatened to asphyxiate us. We were eventually rescued in the boatlift that plucked thousands from the edges of Manhattan.
When we were finally able to return to our apartment, we looked out every day on scenes of unimaginable destruction. My soaring dreams had crumbled like the Twin Towers. My husband and I were both unemployed, living in a neighborhood of death and destruction, and experiencing PTSD. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue living in a world where so much evil exists.
Although therapy helped ease some of our PTSD symptoms, it was the Christian community that provided the best balm for our wounded souls. At Redeemer Presbyterian Church we found financial aid to help pay our bills and a deeper relationship with Christ. I began to realize that my desire for material wealth and status were misplaced goals and that God was Sovereign over everything — even the incomprehensible.
Six months after the 9/11 attacks, I was surprised to learn that The Sphere had been recovered from the World Trade Center rubble and would be installed in Battery Park. I rushed over the day she was unveiled, but my first glimpse stopped me in my tracks.
Gone was the golden shine. Gone was her majestic aura. The Sphere no longer even resembled a sphere. Her top was sheared off like a soccer ball that had been punctured and kicked. Her beautiful, curved panels were dented. Her smooth surface had been scratched and blasted by debris that left holes with raw, sharp edges. She rested now on the quiet, grassy lawn of Battery Park. It seemed like she’d been put out to pasture.
I saw her nearly every day when I was walking my dog, and sometimes I would sit on a bench and gaze at her even though it was often difficult to be with my old friend. She was a stubborn, unmoving reminder of the attacks and our pain and the loss of my certainty.
But over time, I began to appreciate her loyalty, her steadfastness, her determination to survive. I began to believe that she was proud of her scars and could almost hear her defiantly declaring, “They tried to bring me down, but they failed! Look at me, I’m still standing!”
I was thrilled to see my friend relocated again in 2017 to Liberty Park, overlooking the original footprint of the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. When I look at her now, I see myself: both my old self and my new self. I remember my youthful goals and dreams and all my striving to attain. Today I am battered and bruised, dented and scarred, but I’m stronger and wiser because Christ truly fills my heart.
I had to rise from the ashes of my own Ground Zero to understand that Christ walks with me through darkness and light. Just like my friend The Sphere, I am in a different place than I could ever have imagined twenty years ago. I never attained the Broadway success that I had been so sure was within my reach. I never sang in a leading role in a hit musical, but I have sung with orphans in South Africa and Honduras.
The Sphere is one of the only pieces of the World Trade Center complex to survive the devastation of 9/11. She’s not the beauty she once was, but she has a new, more important role to fulfill—to connect the present to the past. Her scrapes and scars speak to the evil in the world—and also to the good that lifted her from the rubble and restored her to a place of prominence.
My life is also a testimony to God’s power to restore and remake. With the Psalmist, I can say, “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (Ps. 66:16).