Remembering 9-11: Carl Sachtleben

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

etired pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Carl Sachtleben can recall only one tragedy that matches the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. In 1991, on the day after Christmas, four members of Salisbury’s Weinhold family died in a plane crash near Hilton Head, S.C.
More than 900 people attended the joint funerals at St. John’s, where Sachtleben had been pastor for less than six months.
The Weinhold deaths were closer to the community than the Sept. 11 terror attacks, yet both tragedies had the same impact, Sachtleben said.
“People did come face to face with the fragility of life and how important it is to live fully each day as a day of grace,” he said.
Retired since 2007, Sachtleben clearly remembers the Tuesday morning in 2001 that changed America. Once word reached the church, staff members gathered around the TV, watching the horror unfold.
“The first thing we did was, we prayed,” he said.
Then they hand-painted a large sign announcing the chapel was open for prayer and posted it on West Innes Street. Many people used the chapel as a quiet place to grieve and reflect in the following weeks, and some left notes of thanks and words of deep emotion, Sachtleben said.
A few days after 9/11, the church hosted an evening prayer service in the sanctuary.
“Again, we invited the community, offering compassion to their sorrow and reassurance in the face of the mindless violence that had occurred,” he said.
Hundreds of people participated.
Sachtleben took calls from parents worried about their children and helped them find words of comfort and hope to share with their kids. He recalls the days after 9/11 as a time of immense sadness and anxiety but also triumph and love as stories circulated about people pulled from the rubble, the bravery of first responders and the courage of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who prevented the hijacked plane from reaching its target in Washington, D.C.
“I think there was a sense in the midst of all the death how the grace and love of God could also be seen,” Sachtleben said. “That was strengthening for people who were living quite a distance from the event itself.”
Although life eventually moved forward, 9/11 has had a lasting impact. People now view some aspects of the tragedy with more clarity and understand the terrorist acts were not the result of Muslim teaching, but rather a distortion of the faith, Sachtleben said.
As the country marks the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, Sachtleben said he hopes people will continue to develop a deeper understanding of different religions and learn from one another.
“Some steps have been taken, and I am glad for them,” he said. “In various communities and at a national level, that seeking of understanding is going on, but we have a long way to go, not only with religious difference but cultural difference.”