When I called Rev. Paul Egensteiner, pastor of Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pleasantville, I had no idea that he had been at the scene, serving as a fire department chaplain.
He was reluctant to talk about it, but took his best shot during what must have been a very difficult day for him.
He told me that he prayed over each of the victims at the scene.
As I wrote on LoHud.com, he told me: “Being there, there is just no way to make sense of it. You can’t. It was an accident. If the question becomes ‘How could God let this happen,’ I say ‘It happened.’ I prayed with each of the victims. I felt God’s presence with them. That was never a question for me.”
I was also able to reach Rabbi Mark Sameth of Pleasantville Community Synagogue, who told me that “Tragedy is no time for theology.”
He said: “One needn’t – I would go so far as to say, shouldn’t – look for meaning in horrific and violent death. This is when we need to reach out and to comfort, to be, so to speak, God’s presence in the world.”
I also got this comment on my blog from a Rev. Patt Kauffman, who I don’t know but apparently served locally at some point:
“I have been asked also how this could happen; is it God’s will that these lives be taken so tragically? I confess a God that always loves, and that never desires ill for creation. When I was serving a congregation in Yorktown Heights, I remember the confusing, entrances and exits, the winding and narrow roadway, and the traffic that travelled much too fast that is the Taconic. In my short tenure, I saw many close calls, and cars off the roadway. This was an accident bound to happen.
“Our task as people of faith is to assure the survivors of God’s love and mercy, even as they (and we) struggle with the horror and the doubt. Healing will come, through the work of a loving and caring community of skilled professionals, thoughtful and insightful clergy, and family and friends, all of whom God can and does work.”