President Reagan cited the majority of the report during an address to the Baptist Fundamentalism convention in April 1984. Here’s what Rensicoff wrote:
I along with Lieutenant Commander George ‘Pooch’ Pucciarelli, the Catholic chaplain attached to the marine unit, faced a scene almost too horrible to describe. Bodies and pieces of bodies were everywhere. Screams of those injured or trapped were barely audible at first, as our minds struggled to grapple with the reality before us—a massive four-story building, reduced to a pile of rubble; dust mixing with smoke and fire, obscuring our view of the little that was left.
Because we’d thought that the sound of the explosion was still related to a single rocket or shell, most of the marines had run toward the foxholes and bunkers while we, the chaplains, had gone to the scene of the noise, just in case someone had been wounded. Now, as the news spread quickly throughout the camp—news of the magnitude of the tragedy, news of the need for others to run to the aid of those comrades who still might be alive, marines came from all directions. There was a sense of God’s presence that day in the small miracles of life which we encountered in each body that, despite all odds, still had a breath within. But there was more of His presence, more to keep our faith alive, in the heroism and in the humanity of the men who responded to the cries for help. We saw marines risk their own lives again and again as they went into the smoke and the fire to try to pull someone out or as they worked to uncover friends, all the while knowing that further collapse of huge pieces of concrete, precariously perched like dominos, could easily crush the rescuers.
There was humanity at its best that day and a reminder not to give up the hope and dreams of what the world could be in the tears that could still be shed by these men, regardless of how cynical they had pretended to be before, regardless of how much they might have seen before.
Certain images will stay with me always. I remember a marine who found a wad of money amidst the rubble. He held it at arm’s length as if it were dirty and cried out for a match or a lighter so that it could be burned. No one that day wanted to profit from the suffering of catastrophe. Later the chaplains would put the word out that the money should be collected and given to us, for we were sure that a fund for widows and orphans would ultimately be established. But at that moment, I was hypnotized with the rest of the men and watched as the money was burned.
Working with the wounded—sometimes comforting, simply letting them know help was on the way; sometimes trying to pull and carry those whose injuries appeared less dangerous in an immediate sense than the approaching fire or the smothering smoke—my kippa was lost. That is the little headgear that is worn by rabbis. The last I remember it, I’d used it to mop someone’s brow. Father Pucciarelli, the Catholic chaplain, cut a circle out of his cap—a piece of camouflaged cloth which would become my temporary headcovering. Somehow he wanted those marines to know not just that we were chaplains, but that he was a Christian and that I was Jewish. Somehow we both wanted to shout the message in a land where people were killing each other—at least partially based on the differences in religion among them—that we, we Americans still believed that we could be proud of our particular religions and yet work side by side when the time came to help others, to comfort, and to ease pain.
Father Pucciarelli and I worked that day as brothers. The words from the prophet Malachi kept recurring to me—words he’d uttered some 2,500 years ago as he had looked around at fighting and cruelty and pain. ‘Have we not all one Father?’ he had asked. ‘Has not one God created us all?’ It was painfully obvious, tragically obvious, that our world still could not show that we had learned to answer, yes. Still, I thought, perhaps some of us can keep the question alive. Some of us can cry out, as the marines did that day, that we believe the answer is yes.
Before the bombing, Pooch—that’s his name for the other chaplain with him—and I had been in a building perhaps a hundred yards away. There’d been one other chaplain, Lieutenant Danny Wheeler, a Protestant minister who’d spent the night in the building which was attacked. Pooch and I were so sure that he was dead that we had promised each other that when the day came to return to the States we would visit his wife together. Suddenly, Pooch noticed Danny’s stole, what he used to call his Protestant tallith. Because it was far from the area Danny was supposed to have been in, there was cautious hope that perhaps he had been thrown clear, that perhaps he had survived. Later, Danny would tell the story of his terror. He was under the rubble, alive, not knowing what had happened and not knowing how badly he was hurt. Then he heard voices of the marines searching near his stole. And his cry for help was answered with digging, which lasted 4 hours before he was dragged out alive.