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A chaplain’s letter

Following are excerpts from a letter from Assemblies of God Chaplain Rick Ianniello to the Assemblies of God Chaplaincy Department on his ministry experience at the World Trade Center.

Just spent two days with the New Jersey Army National Guard chaplains and their assistants. We have been put on State Active Duty and my chaplains and I joined them to reinforce their numbers.

Chaplain Rick Ianniello

We were housed at the Jersey City Armory. Our primary mission was at the Staten Island landfill. This landfill is now called “LSA Respect.”

At the landfill truckloads of stuff from ground zero are being brought in. This stuff is sifted through to look for body parts and anything else that may help the investigators. This is done by both dogs and humans.

From time to time they will find a part of a body or something else that might help determine who was in the building. The place is dusty and it stinks. You have to wear a Hazmat suit and a mask.
However, even with that you never feel clean.

We also visited ground zero. Cannot believe what we saw. Death, destruction and sadness are all around. The destruction is not only to the WTC but also to all the buildings that are close. No one knows how long the recovery and rebuilding will take.

The cars and steel from the building look like something out of a science fiction movie. The steel girders are twisted and white from the intense heat. Cars are beyond description.

The poor dogs from both locations are suffering. They are hurting from walking on garbage and from inhaling the concrete dust and from working long hours. But they keep on going.

The people are fantastic. Many are in pain because they lost people who they knew or members of their family. One fireman told us that he lost four members of his family in the catastrophe. His son and son-in-law were members of his fire unit and perished.

We just comforted them the best that we could, gave them Bibles and prayed for them.

We have given out lots of Bibles and gospel tracts. We have talked to hundreds and have given out hundreds of tracts. We even pray for the dogs. Now, I know that some of you will have a problem with that, but let me tell you, when a dog handler has tears in his eyes because his dog is hurting, I will pray for God to bless the dog and handler.

The general feeling among the chaplains is we are not there to condemn or set people theologically straight. We are there to let them see God’s love in action.

Those I met are hungry to talk and be prayed for. No one says “no.” The feeling is that this will go on for a long time.

Somehow I have to believe that God has a plan. Even in this destruction and death.

— Chaplain, Lt. Cmdr., Rick Ianniello
New Jersey State Naval Militia Joint Command, Fort Dix

Editor’s note: Chaplain Ianniello’s unit consists of five military chaplains; three of them represent the Assemblies of God.

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