The Rev. Dr. Willard Ashley was driving to the doctor’s office in Englewood, N.J., when the planes hit the World Trade Center.
The senior pastor and founder of The Church of Abundant Joy in Jersey City wasn’t quite sure what had happened. “I thought maybe a crop duster had hit,” he recalled. By the time he pulled into the parking lot, the radio news was reporting a terrorist attack.
As a pastor and psychotherapist, he had mixed feelings about whether he should even bother with his doctor’s appointment. It all seemed so inconsequential now.
“As the caregiver, I was more worried about people in the doctor’s office,” he says. “I wondered if my physician and the staff and patients knew. I felt like I should be the caregiver of the doctor’s office.”
This feeling would be one that would define Pastor Willard throughout the recovery efforts and for years afterwards as he counseled not only his congregation members, but also fellow clergy.
His transformation would include becoming the public face of care for the care-givers after 9/11, and co-authoring the book “Disaster Spiritual Care: Practical Clergy Responses to Community, Regional and National Tragedy.”
He shares his story with me in my book coming out this summer, “Life is Too Short: Stories of Transformation and Renewal After 9/11.”
Transformations and renewal happened to all of us following September 11. As you approach the 10th anniversary of that tragic day, how have you been transformed?