It Wasn’t Hell
From an interview with my friend Charlie Edmond, NYPD
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14
There’s no way to even begin to comprehend the size of that disaster. It was gigantic. A pile of rubble. People. And it’s hallowed ground at the same time. A lot of people were never recovered. I’ve heard it said, 9/11 was hell, and in many ways it was, but in the end I believe God was glorified. My faith in Christ is what got me through…
I was raised an atheist. It’s not like my dad sat me down and explained it to me that way, I was just raised with nothing. No God at all. I got married at twenty-two. I had been a cop for about two years at the time. My wife was already a Christian, and I believe, if not for her prayers, we would have become a statistic. You know the divorce rate, 50% or more. And I was just living all wrong. My life was headed for trouble.
I came home one night drunk as a skunk. tore up the kitchen, made a big mess. I knew that it hurt my wife. So I was lying in bed later thinking, and there was this wooden cross on the wall, and I knew right then that my life just wasn’t right. I knew I needed to change. “Lord,” I cried. “I can’t live like this anymore!” I called my wife into the room and said, “You’ve got to pray for me.”
Mercifully, she did. I got on my knees and asked Christ into my life. And that’s the day I got saved, but I had long, long way to go. Like I was in this bar a few nights later, having a couple of beers. And the language coming out of my mouth is inexcusable. And God’s like, “How’s that working out for you?” And I would preach to these guys at the bar, and they’re like, “Are you serious? Look at you, man. You haven’t changed a bit!” And on the street nothing had changed either. I mean these guys that grow up in the ghetto, they only understand filthy language, so you gotta talk to them that way. You can’t be soft on these guys. And so I’m cursing them. I mean it’s coming out of my mouth all wrong, and again God’s like, “How’s that working?”
And so one day I listened to him and just stopped cursing, and he showed me a new way to do my job. I mean they should teach this to cops, because you show the people out there something they’ve never experienced…respect. I wasn’t any less firm, but instead of swearing at them I started to treat them like human beings. “All right,” I would say. “I’ll listen to you, man.” And suddenly I was able to talk these 6’4″ guys into handcuffs instead of trying to fight them into submission. That was God. It was totally God.
I spent almost two years on the force as a non-believer, so I got to see it from the critical side. Back then we had a name for the bad guys…the homeless, the crackheads, the dirtbags. We called them “Skells.” It meant they were losers. And that’s the negative attitude you get working on the streets without Christ. And in time, unchecked, you go through this downward spiral. First, the skells are the bad guys. Then the midnight cops are the good guys and all other cops are skells. And then soon, your squad. They’re the only good guys. And then your partner’s the good guy and all the rest are skells. And then one day your partner’s a skell, and you hate the world.
And that’s the way it went for so many cops. Many guys ended up eating a gun, because they forget why they had become cops to begin with, to help other people. I mean we always see the negative. People never call a cop when they’re happy, like, “How you doing, guys? Come on in. Have a cup of coffee.” No, it always, “I’ve been robbed!” or “I’ve been in a car wreck.” or “Someone beat me up.” Always something negative. And some guys just have enough of it. And cops have the means, too. So they end up putting the gun in their mouth and pulling the trigger. I’ve seen it too many times. The suicide rate among cops is too high.
So I’ve got to say that my faith in Christ is the only way I got through it. Like I said, I was a drunk. I was going to lose my job. I definitely was going to lose my marriage. But God in his mercy just took all that away. Took it completely away. I don’t know how you make twenty years in the force without God. It’s a tough, tough road.
To be continued…
Coming October 31st, Part 2 of “It Wasn’t Hell” (with Charlie Edmond NYPD)
September 11, 2001
“…there’s about an inch or two of dust everywhere. I don’t know what is was, it must have been sheetrock dust, or whatever, but it looked like the moon. And there’s debris hanging everywhere, and you’re looking up as much as you’re looking around wondering what’s going to fall. And nobody knows what they’re doing. I mean, there’s I’beams lying all around, bent like you’d bend a straw. And I’m just standing these with these gloves in my hands. I just had no idea what to do. We had no idea…”
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