PHOENIX – With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks coming up this weekend, many people are experiencing some of the intense emotions they felt back then.
Andrea Raynor was a chaplain at Ground Zero. Between her time there and working with patients in hospice care, she has heard countless stories of pain and loss. As a cancer survivor, she’s lived through tough times of her own.
Her work has given her a unique perspective on life and death, comfort and grief.
“I find in my work – whether it was 9/11 or with hospice – the most important thing is just to show up,” she said. “The worst thing we can do is not be present at all.”
She said the first responders to the 9/11 tragedy had unique needs, both in the moment and in the days, weeks and months that followed.
“So many of them were traumatized by what they saw on Sept. 11 and in the ensuing months of the recovery process,” she exclaimed. “They needed a kind of soft shoulder to cry on, in a way. They needed to have someone who was willing to hear stories that were very hard to hear.”
The upcoming anniversary is bound to raise questions of faith for many, including Raynor herself.
“We’re independently made creatures,” she said. “I don’t believe God is a puppeteer, directing each and every one of our actions, but I do believe God is present when we go through difficult times.”
It’s that presence and that connection Raynor wanted to share as part of teaching others how to understand and accept the worst life has to offer.
That's why she wrote “The Voice That Calls You Home,” a collection of essays, writings meant to give hope to those looking for a spiritual connection in their daily lives.
The book's subtitle sums it up in four words -- "Inspiration for Life's Journeys."
"Throughout these essays, the presence of the Divine runs like a silver thread, weaving in and out of stories that are heartbreaking and uplifting, unbelievable and yet true," according to Raynor's website.
The book’s title comes from Raynor’s work with the dying, many of whom say they want to go home. She believes they mean more than just the place they live.
“I think it highlights that yearning to reconnect with that greater home, whatever it is,” Raynor said. “We don’t know what this next life holds for us, but there is a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves.
Raynor will be speaking at Xavier College Prep Thursday at 7 p.m. as part of the Arizona Authors Series.
Tickets are $35. Proceeds benefit the Phoenix Fire Department.