From Darkness Into Light was born on December 9th, 2001 not as a foundation, but as a poem. Three months prior, on September 11, 2001, tragedy struck my family as we lost two family members in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. My brother Tim O’Brien and my sister’s husband Steve Tighe both worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the North Tower. My mom and dad did the best they could to rally our family around our faith even though they were dealing with shattered hearts themselves. It was because of our faith that we knew Tim and Steve were in Heaven together, but that was just about the only positive thing we could come up with in the days following 9/11.
I was very close with both Tim and Steve. I remember the days when I would come home from elementary school with excitement and anticipation because I knew Steve would be at the house and we would go into the back yard and play hockey together. One of us would be the goalie while the other took slap shots and then we switched. We would each choose three spots to take shots from and we took ten shots from each spot. Whoever scored the most goals out of those 30 shots won. Of course we never stopped at 30, some days we played for hours. I’m fortunate to have those special memories with him.
Tim and I were 10 years apart in age so when it came to playing sports together, it would have been easy for him to blow me off as a younger brother who was certainly not as good at basketball as he was, but some of you who are reading this know Tim and you know that’s not his character. Instead, he taught me how to play the game, he taught me how to shoot and he taught me the value of hard work. Of course I never got to the level that Tim did (he was a college All-American), but I did go on to play for the #1 Nationally ranked HS basketball team in the country which was pretty cool.
Tim and I maintained that close relationship into adulthood with both of us having careers in the financial industry. We talked everyday up until 9/11.
They say there are 5 stages of grief, the first being “denial” and the second being “anger”. Well, for almost 3 months AFTER 9/11, I continued to call Tim at work everyday, only to get the dreaded
“beep, beep, beep, this number is no longer in service” message. I guess it was my way of trying to hold on to him. Put a check mark in the box for “denial.” As far as anger, well put a check mark in that box as well. I was angry at God. I had questions I wanted answered and I had doubts about my faith. I directed the firestorm of all of those things at God. How did God respond to my firestorm? I couldn’t tell you because I wasn’t listening to Him, I didn’t want to. There’s a bit of guilt that goes along with that though because I have so many blessings in my life, how could I possibly have the right to be angry at God? I have three beautiful daughters, I have a beautiful wife who has stuck with me and is truly a secondary victim to my abuse because she has had to deal with so much of the destruction the abuse has caused both physically and emotionally for me. I live in a beautiful city in NC where I’m only a short drive away from standing on a mountaintop looking out for miles at God’s amazing creation of nature and a short drive away from the beach where I can sit in awe and watch the sun as it rises over the Atlantic Ocean. How dare I be angry at a God who is so powerful that he is able to create such beauty. But unfortunately, the pain was too great and seemed to drowned out those blessings.
For three months I tried to deal with that pain. I not only was calling Tim’s work number everyday,
I also had a constant nightmarish scene playing in my head of what Tim and Steve experienced in their last few minutes of life. I pictured them burning, bloody, panicking and trying to escape with large steel beams falling on them. That scene played over and over in my head all day long. It was so painful to think that people you love so much, spent their last few minutes on earth experiencing that.
A paragraph ago I asked how God responded to the firestorm I was throwing at Him. On December 9th I got my answer. He responded with an abundance of grace and mercy. He knew I wasn’t listening to Him, so He sent Tim and Steve to me. Call it grace, call it mercy, call it a miracle if you want, but God knew that I would pay attention to every word that Tim said. So on December 9th 2001 as I sat on my couch at 3am dealing with yet another sleepless night, Tim and Steve came and sat with me. It was so comforting to see them together. Tim gave me the words to the poem “From Darkness Into Light” and assured me that they were at peace in those final minutes. The smoke had overtaken them and they simply fell asleep and were welcomed into Heaven. Tim’s last words to me were about the poem, he said “spread this message as far and wide as you can because it will bring people peace”. I did the best I could and the poem took on a life of it’s own, even ending up in different countries. Where God’s mercy and grace really came through for me though was that after getting that message from Tim, the nightmares stopped. No more horrific scenes of their last minutes of life playing in my head and I stopped calling Tim’s office number. I finally had peace and while I didn’t look at it like this at the time, looking back I can say with confidence that the message was from God, but He used Tim as the messenger knowing I would believe every word Tim said. He also knew that sending both Tim and Steve together would bring an even greater peace than just Tim alone and I’m so thankful God carried me through that storm.
Incredibly, looking back on the timing of things, I wrote the poem on December 9th 2001 and the message of the poem is clearly about 9/11. However, I’m not so sure that it’s a coincidence that less than a month later, the Boston Globe broke the story about the widespread nature of the clergy abuse scandal and literally brought the horrendous acts of abuse and cover ups from the darkness of secrecy into the light of the public eye. So almost 17 years later, here I am starting the FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT FOUNDATION. I know that there are many ways you can use your money and many causes that you may already support, but I ask that you please consider supporting the
FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT FOUNDATION and making it a success so we can help as many victims of clergy sexual abuse as possible.
From Darkness Into Light
Take my hand and I’ll lead you home
I’m right here beside you, you’re not alone
Now darkness surrounds you, as the smoke billows up
But soon you’ll see clearly, and drink from my cup
So be not afraid, this promise I’ve made before
That I’m the way, the truth, and the life
You’ll need nothing more
Right now the world is watching you, in shock and disbelief
Their hearts are filled with fear, with pain, anger and grief
But I will bear their burden and lighten their load
Though the journey for peace, will be a long winding road
And for your family whom you love,your concern is so high
How will they handle this, how will they get by?
The answer to this question, lies within me
It will take time, but I’ll set their hearts free
I’ll send all the angels, to be by their side
To watch over them, protect them, and act as their guide
So struggle no more with concerns of this life
For where you are going, there’s no worry or strife
It’s time to come home now, your last breath you have taken
As you lay down in peace, your soul I will awaken
It’s then you’ll bear witness, to a truly amazing sight
It’s then you’ll know I’ve taken you
From Darkness Into Light
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch this video. The song “Survivor”, which is sung by Zach Williams who is an award winning Christian music artist, is the perfect anthem for us as survivors. I hope you find it inspirational.