San Diego chaplain who served at ground zero reflects on 20 years since 9/11

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SAN DIEGO — Saturday marks 20 years since the worst terror attack on American soil.

Dr. Mickey Stonier, chaplain for several first responder agencies in San Diego, joined FOX 5 Monday morning to reflect on his time at ground zero two decades after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I was part of a response team for airline disasters and my on-call month was September, and so that led me, with eight other chaplains from around the country, to be in New York for the first two weeks,” Stonier said.

Stonier and another pastor from San Diego, Mike MacIntosh, served at ground zero. They supported firefighters and urban search and rescue teams while also working at the family assistance center and the morgue.

“Many of the survivors, the responders, have issues with cancer, post traumatic stress disorder,” Stonier said. “I myself have had two bouts of cancer related to 9/11. I had vitiligo, where two weeks after I got back, you start losing your pigment. So there are physical, mental and emotional (effects).”

Stonier said it was a privilege and honor to provide the support in the aftermath of the attacks.

“For those first two weeks, our country unified. We had a common enemy, the tragedy. It’s called post traumatic growth,” Stonier said. “We drew together as a country and now 20 years later, I wish we could get back to that heart of loving one another and uniting together, rather than the division we’re seeing on so many different levels.”

Through the decades, Stonier said he has kept in touch with chaplains he served with and police and fire rescue personnel who also served at ground zero.

When asked how to keep the gravity of the attacks fresh in the minds of a new generation, Stonier said the best thing we can do is to continue to share stories about that day.

“Keep telling the story — where you were that day, how it impacted you. It’s important, the narratives we continue to tell. And to lay a foundation again of honor and love,” Stonier said.

Stonier encouraged San Diegans and Americans to take the advice of Pastor Miles McPherson at the Rock Church, where Stonier also serves: honor one another, take time to hear and love.

“For our children and children’s children, continue to tell the story but emphasize love, not hate.”

Stonier added that talking about pain, whether it stems from the attacks or current day issues, and turning to faith and friends can help people get through even the darkest days.

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