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Ken Ham interviews Ralph DiCosimo, a New York police officer with first-hand experience of the aftermath of the horrific happenings of 11 September 2001. The interview took place in the first few weeks after the tragedy.
Ken Ham [KH]: Ralph, when you first saw “Ground Zero” as it’s been called, what came to mind?
Ralph DiCosimo [RD]: The first time I went down there, on the day it happened, the devastation was just unbelievable. I couldn’t even believe that I was in the same city I had lived in all my life. It looked like a war zone; the air was full of debris, just a smouldering mass. Even the air was too thick to breathe properly.
KH: What about the thousands of people dead in the rubble, and all the others who lost loved ones? How did that affect the people of New York City?
RD: Ken, in these weeks after the tragedy, I’ve been approached by people either on the street or on my way down to Ground Zero, asking, “Why did this happen? How could such a terrible thing happen to us?” Some would even ask, “Why did God allow something like this to happen?” Just a lot of desperation and hopelessness.
KH: That brings us to the reason you wrote to Answers in Genesis, saying that the message we’re bringing is needed in New York City.
RD: Very much so. Although there are a lot of Christian ministries and many of them have a very good message, AiG’s message comes from a different angle. It attempts to get people to understand that the Bible is the Word of God, starting from the very first verse. So if we understand the message in Genesis, then we understand that death isn’t something that God originally created—it entered the world through Adam’s sin, and that it will continue to occur in this cursed, decaying world until the consummation of all things we read about in the end of the Bible. Answers in Genesis has really affected my life with its powerful, foundational message. Once we take Genesis as literal truth, it helps us to make more sense of what we see around us, and of tragic events like this. This message has really empowered me and I’ve learned so much through Creation magazine and TJ.
KH: Have you used that message with people there in New York City?
RD: Yes, I have; while some people don’t really know what to say, to others it makes sense. It’s something they haven’t heard, something from a different angle.
KH: Some New York City chaplains and pastors requested donations of copies of our little booklet, Is There Really a God? There was such a demand after the first 10,000 were shipped that we ended up giving them over 50,000 copies, because they said that it’s one of the most-asked questions in New York City at this time. Are you finding that?
RD: Absolutely. Since this happened, a lot of people’s attitudes and outlooks have changed. Many live in fear, not knowing why this happened, and wondering what’s to stop it happening to them. I suppose in America generally, we’ve felt kind of insulated, and things we see around the world don’t happen to us. I think this really hit home for everyone, myself included. People want answers, but they’re not finding them.
KH: Do you think there is now more of an openness to talk about God, the Bible and Christianity?
RD: Definitely. Although it’s sad it had to happen like this, this tragedy has created an inroad. Many people knew someone who died, and it reminds people of their own mortality. My own aunt used to work in the twin towers—I used to visit her—it could have been me. It’s made a lot of people step back and look at their relationship with God, and question things. So it’s an important time to talk to people. As time passes, probably the tendency will be for them to become comfortable again.
KH: Do you find that people are also crying out for answers to why there is death and suffering in the world anyway?
RD: Certainly. One of the main questions I get is, if there’s a God, and God is all good, and all-powerful, then why doesn’t He just stop death, evil and all those things from happening? How could there be a God in all this? And I think the Answers in Genesis ministry really gives the Biblical answer, which is the only answer. It’s the only answer that makes sense of why there is death.
KH: Ralph, do you find that a lot of Christians who haven’t been influenced by the ministry of AiG really don’t know how to answer such questions about the existence of God and about death and suffering?
RD: Absolutely. Once I became saved a couple of years ago, I really started to read the Bible. I had always been into science, and I didn’t know how to square the book of Genesis with the things I had read. So I went to a Christian bookstore, and I found a book on “creation vs evolution”, thinking it would be helpful. But it wasn’t at all what I expected, it was mental gymnastics of making the Creation story fit with evolution, and I felt destroyed. It started putting doubts in my head about my faith, and became an obstacle for me. I think that happens for a lot of people, because that approach really undermines the history in the Bible. Once I started listening to Answers in Genesis, I found that there were answers to these things, and it really brought a lot of joy to me.
KH: You know, many Christians who don’t believe in evolution still believe in “millions of years”. But because this implies that the fossil layers were laid down over millions of years before man, they have to accept that all the things we see evidence of in the fossils—death, disease (like cancer) and violence—have been around for millions of years. Because God said, after making man, that everything was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), that would mean He would have been calling death and disease “very good”. It would mean that these bad things were a part of how God chose to create the world, and were not intruders into a perfect world.
RD: That’s right—the Bible says that death is an enemy that God will finally do away with (1 Cor. 15:26). It’s no wonder so many Christians find it hard to give answers when they start from a foundation that doesn’t square with what is so plain in the Bible.
KH: Ralph, as I looked up Web sites after the September 11 event, I found that many Christian leaders (not all) said such things as, “Well, we have no explanation, and we don’t know why these things would happen.” And invariably, those same Christian leaders believe in millions of years.
RD: Not surprising, because, if you believe in millions of years, you really don’t—you can’t—have a coherent, consistent answer. The book of Genesis, taken as literal history, as Answers in Genesis proclaims, is very, very important, and vital. The Bible regards Adam and Eve as real, literal people, and links the reason why Jesus Christ, the “last Adam”, came to die with the coming of death through the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:21–22, 45). It’s a part of God’s overcoming death forever. But if the Earth was around for millions of years, then death, violence and cancer are part of God’s “normal” way of doing things, so we’re in trouble.
KH: As a New York City police officer, and standing there looking at all this devastation, what would have been the difference in your thinking, had you not had the influence of AiG ministry?
RD: I think that looking at that widespread destruction down there, I would have been despairing a lot more, Ken. If I didn’t have the Bible, the Word of God, and believe that it was all historically true, I would have felt, wow, you know, there’s no answer for all this, there’s no reason, I don’t know why God let it happen. But I know that, although there are political reasons, the ultimate reason for September 11 is that there’s sin in this world, that entered through Adam about 6,000 years ago. So there’ll be evil and disasters until that day we can look forward to, when Christ comes and restores the world and there’s no more sin in the world, no more pain or death. And all those who have a relationship with Christ can live in peace.
KH: Our new booklet, Why is there Death and Suffering?, talks about this big picture, about sin being the ultimate reason for all death, including what happened on September 11. In other words, we’re all to blame. Now, it was also the individual sin of the terrorists, of course, but a lot of people ask me why God let all those innocent people die in those twin towers.
RD: Well, from God’s point of view, there are no innocent people.
KH: That’s right. You’re not innocent, I’m not innocent. All the people looking on weren’t innocent, in that sense. We’re all sinners, and all condemned to death. I had people say to me, “Wow, I’m glad I wasn’t in the World Towers, I would have died.” And I said to them, “Guess what—you are going to die.” Because everyone has already been given the death penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). But the fact is that our God is a God of love. So even in the midst of all the world’s death and suffering, which we’ve brought on ourselves, He stepped into history in the person of His Son to die for us and be raised from the dead.
RD: That’s the wonderful message of hope for this culture, Ken.
KH: I’m reminded, too, of Jesus talking about the Tower of Siloam that fell on some people and killed them. He said it wasn’t because they were worse sinners than anybody else, but he also said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5). That reminds us that we’re all under the condemnation of death.1 Could you use some copies of the booklet Why is there Death and Suffering? to help people there in New York City?
RD: Definitely, Ken. I think that for a lot of people it would provide some valuable answers, that just aren’t being given by anyone else. It’s sad that much of the church doesn’t seem to be giving those sorts of answers.
KH: Ralph, what about your fellow police officers, are they more open to talking about God, too?
RD: Well, interestingly, Ken, my supervisor subscribes to Creation magazine, and he’s also a fan of AiG—it’s been a great blessing to him. We talk about stuff like this, and it’s good to have each other for support. I think some of the people I work with are a little more open now. Before September 11, there would have been more of a closed door, but now there is this natural inclination, because we’re all made in God’s image, all inherently religious, to want to know, well, where is God in all this? So they’re more likely to be open to the truth.
KH: Ralph, it is so heartening to me to know there are police officers like you on the streets out there in New York City, and I’m sure there are others across this nation as well who stand on the authority of the Word of God. I praise the Lord for you and for others who take the stand that you do.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.