Book Review by Kathryn Ross: Triumph Over Terror

“Questions swirled in our minds: why did these terrorists do such an evil thing?  Where was God? . . . A firefighter who saves lives should not be dead, but he was—his annihilation caused by terrorists who cared nothing about the sanctity of human life . . . Firefighters, police officers, and recovery workers were saddened by this death; but their determination remained strong. Americans cannot forget this tragic scene, ever. These firefighters will not have died in vain if America always remembers what happened on September 11. 2001.”

Excerpt from Bob Ossler’s book,   Triumph Over Terror  w/Janice Hall Heck

Chaplain Bob Ossler served five tours of duty at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the terror attack and destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11. His peculiar training as a firefighter, paramedic, mortician, and ordained minister substantially prepared him to serve in a setting that no one is ever really prepared to experience.

What he witnessed there in recovering the remains of the thousands of souls who perished in the ash heap is seared into his mind and heart. He ministered solace and comfort to the mourning community of volunteer and neighbors toiling to restore order from the destructive chaos. Stepping into the skin of the workers and their pain, Chaplain Bob sought to be the ministry of Jesus in the lives of everyone he met there.

Fourteen years later he attended the writer’s group I co-lead with seasoned editor Janice Hall Heck. “I think I need to write a book,” he said, “but, I’m not much of a writer.”

He’s a storyteller.

In that May 2015 writer’s meeting, he shared a couple of his 9/11 tales in a soft, breathy delivery. Jan and I dropped our jaws in amazement, emotionally transported by his imagery. His powerful words drew us into the heart-rending moments of the people he met, the things he saw, and the jobs he performed, with a mix of wonder, horror, and fascination.

“You must write this book, Bob,” we encouraged him. This was an important book that should find a reading audience—especially in these turbulent times where terrorism is more prevalent than ever.

People are in great need of God’s peace and comfort. Click To Tweet

Jan committed to work closely with him to the purpose.

I had the privilege of spending the early days of this book project on the phone with Bob, encouraging him as he began the mind dump of long buried memories. Often he ran a story past me and I’d be dumbstruck at the powerful image it conjured, and the pain evoked in my heart. “Did you send that story to Janice?” I’d ask.

“No. I thought it might be too much. Too brutal to share and read.”

“You must include it.” I’d say. But, Bob was not convinced.

We attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference in the summer of 2015 with Jan’s book proposal of the work, including about thirty stories in a first draft to show editors and authors for review.

Bob Ossler Triumph Over Terror

Award-winning novelist Eva Marie Everson, who was in Manhattan on 9/11, advised Bob directly, “Show me the blood.” Click To Tweet

Bob was hesitant because he knew the chambers that would be opened were he to share some of the more horrifying images. There’d be an emotional toll on his own tender heart to relive those moments in exact language. Bravely, he turned the key to memory and his words poured onto the page, mingling both tears and insight.

A year later, thanks to the vision of Scoti Domeij of Blackside Publishing, and the long, tedious hours of editorial manuscript work by co-author, Janice Hall Heck, Bob’s Triumph Over Terror has released just ahead of the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

Bob Ossler, Janice Hall Heck, Triumph Over Terror

Triumph Over Terror has been a cathartic exercise for Bob. In the process of liberating his experiences at Ground Zero in detail, he created a healing work to help others purge pain and trauma in their lives. Each tale of an isolated incident closes with a glorious testimony of God’s tender mercies in the midst of tragedy.

Bob’s stories are the raw truth of the painful moments he walked through, along with the workers and volunteers who served by his side in the clean-up and recovery efforts. It is a first person documentation in memory of the souls found in the ruins—and the survivors.  The horrid sights, smells, and sounds they worked in each day on the “Pile” reminds us that sin stinks and should have no place in civil societies. It gives us a sense of what the enemy looks like and what we must never allow ourselves to become desensitized to. Never Forget.

Triumph Over Terror flags

In an early chapter, Bob likens the initial sight of the tower ruins to a Hollywood disaster movie set. Some sections are difficult to read due to the scenes described—until you get to the redemption part.

You see, every short chapter story of an encounter on the Pile, ends with the grace of God and light in the darkness. Hope in the face of evil rises to the surface, leaving the reader with a firmer grasp of reality in both the spiritual and material world.

The intersection of tragedy and triumph makes the sign of a cross. Click To Tweet

Bob’s presence on the Pile crossed over the terror element with a more powerful triumph factor. In the wake of painful encounters, God showed up every time and, in some way, turned the tide one life at a time.

Jesus arrived in this world, getting down and dirty with us in our painful suffering. The presence of God walked and talked in the waste Pile of man, powerful to redeem and heal—though scars remain. The events of 9/11 scarred a nation. They’ve left their mark on Chaplain Bob. He’s in good company there. The resurrected Jesus showed His scars and wore them as badges of honor, awarded by God the Father, proof of the pleasing work accomplished at the crossroad of terror and triumph 2000 years ago.

In the darkness His Light shines. Click To Tweet

Chaplain Bob wants to tell his story–so others can find healing in God’s Story.

Bob Ossler, Chaplain

In Summary

Chaplain Bob Ossler’s five tours of duty in the dark place of terror’s aftermath, produced scars, now turned to the light of redemption in his book, Triumph Over Terror. Janice Hall Heck provided expert and meticulous attention to editing his written narratives, arranging them into chronological and thematic chapters. The result is both a primary source account of an important historical event, as well as a manual for anyone desiring to know the different ways God can minister to hearts in crisis, struggling through loss, grief, and trauma.

I believe this is a vital read for every American. But, anyone seeking God to lift them into a place of triumph over troublesome times in their lives will find answers here, too. Grief counselors and ministers should make place on their resource bookshelf for this book, as well.

For my part, I’m making sure my loved ones receive signed copies of Triumph Over Terror. I am proud to have played a very small part in bringing it to print.


About the Author:

“I teach families how to restore their God-given authority as the primary educator in their child’s life through the experience of reading together as a family. Learn how to use literature to create teachable moments, build strong minds, and bind loving hearts.” Kathryn Ross, writer, speaker, and dramatist, ignites a love of literature and learning to equip young and old towards developing a Family Literacy Lifestyle—reading together, learning together, loving together. Her works challenge families to deepen their literacy skills and grow into the greater things God has purposed for them. She’s taught in Christian and homeschool circles, trained in the Principle Approach® through the Foundation for American Christian Education. Miss Kathy owns Pageant Wagon Publishing, producing homeschool enrichment materials, devotional works, study guides, and theatrical dramas for church, school, and community production. She podcasts at and blogs at

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Book Review by Angelina Assanti-SWFL Online: Triumph Over Terror

Read the latest book review from Angelina Assanti in the Southwest Florida Online journal.

This Week’s Featured Author – Bob Ossler Chaplain

Article by: Angelina Assanti

In this week’s edition of “Between the Covers,” we feature the writing team of Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck. Their fascinating award-winning book, Triumph Over Terror, was born of tragedy.


Chaplain Bob at Ground Zero 2001

Mr. Ossler was a full-time firefighter in Chicago who earned a degree in pastoral ministry by going to classes part-time. He became an ordained chaplain. It took him seventeen years to complete the degree requirements.

That would be a feat for anyone, but Bob Ossler has lived with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) his whole life– officially diagnosed in adulthood. His ADHD made getting an education challenging especially when it came to reading and writing reports and following directions.

An ADHD diagnosis is not uncommon now, but it was something not many doctors knew about or even how to treat as Bob was growing up. ADHD makes things that the average person takes for granted – such as writing – monumental tasks. Little did Mr. Ossler know that one day, that little boy who was labeled as “naughty” and easily-distracted would be counseling and consoling people at Ground Zero and other national tragedies. He would then go on to co-author several books.

Mr. Ossler grew up in Chicago with three siblings. His mother remarried a fair but firm disciplinarian. Despite Mr. Ossler’s difficulty being able to focus and follow directions, he was good with his hands, imagination, memory, and creating things. As a young man, Bob entered the military where he trained in x-ray technology and as an emergency medical technician. Both of these prepared him for the physical requirements of disasters.

The real challenge with disaster is in one’s mind. When I asked Mr. Ossler about this, he had a lengthy reply. Normally, I would edit someone’s response but I felt in this case, it was better to hear his insightful comments because few of us will be able to talk to someone who was actually at Ground Zero and learn about the tragedy from a first-hand observer.

tot with awards“People suffer through tragic events and often keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. Sometimes this leads to depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome. I buried my feelings at Ground Zero. I put on a brave front because I didn’t want to break down in front of people who needed my counseling. The sights we saw traumatized us – workers, visitors to Ground Zero, and chaplains alike. The horrific sights broke our hearts and spirits – even those with the best training and experience.

I realized in meetings with other chaplains that we all had these feelings of frustration, helplessness, and inner turmoil. Each of us suffered in silence. Individually we could only help one person at a time. But together we could pray, help, and encourage each other first, then those we wanted to serve. When we shared our pain with colleagues, we felt a measure of relief. Even more so, our written words could expand our reach with the message that despite our pain, there is hope and sharing is the first step to healing.”

When I asked Mr. Ossler why he decided to write a book, he said, “The stories I had gathered while at Ground Zero would offer a tribute to those heroes who lost their lives there. In addition, I wanted to honor those workers and volunteers who spent hours in search, rescue, and recovery work. It was gruesome but necessary work. I needed to clear my head of these memories of suffering that I witnessed at Ground Zero. Writing became therapeutic for me. As I wrote, I released some of the pain of memories.”

Mr. Ossler and his writing partner, Janice Hall Heck, are currently working on a book about dealing with ADHD. Ossler says of his diagnosis, ADHD never goes away but changes at every stage of life. The trick is learning how to deal with it. In the new book, as yet untitled, Bob tells of past personal discouraging and sometimes humiliating experiences with his ADHD. Now after years of reflection, he offers strategies to help to manage those difficulties.

Chaplain Bob Ossler in Baton Rouge after police shootings offering comfort and prayer for brokenhearted people.

Chaplain Bob Ossler in Baton Rouge after police shootings offering comfort and prayer for brokenhearted people.

Bob and Janice frequently do book signings together and share stories from their book. They are also available for speaking engagements when Bob is not out of town. He is still traveling and giving care as a chaplain when tragedy strikes. You may have seen his picture and not even known it. He is frequently the chaplain people see in high-profile tragedies.

Many people get labeled and defined by the things they can or can’t do. Too many people today are told they have limitations. I cannot help but think about all the people Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck have impacted by sharing this beautiful and tragic story 9-11. There is a lesson to all of us who have been told what we are capable of. Some will believe it and some will step out behind a label and radically impact people’s lives. I know there are thousands of people who have been affected by having Mr. Ossler there when they need comfort the most.

Triumph Over Terror has won two prestigious awards:

  • Best Book Awards Finalist, 2017, American Book Fest
  • International Book Awards Finalist, 2018, International Book Awards.

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Overwhelmed by ADHD? Don’t Give Up

Working on our book on strategies for harnessing ADHD can be overwhelming. Janice Hall Heck,  my collaborator on this book, is a toastmaster for detail, but I love it.

Bob Ossler working on ADHD manuscript.

Bob Ossler working on ADHD manuscript. Overwhelmed but persevering.  Janice Heck photo.

I’ve felt overwhelmed in school and life many times in my life. I sometimes feel that way now, even though retired from being a paramedic, firefighter, and pastor.

Yesterday a friend called and asked me to talk to a young man in college who has ADHD. I called and we talked for almost an hour. I listened intently as he shared his angry frustrations with his learning situation. He’s actually a bright young man, but he can’t sit still in class, and he’s easily distracted by people and things around him. He has asked for accommodations, but so far, that has not been forthcoming.

I took mental notes as I listened. I  had to hyper focus on his words to get his story in my head. 

As he talked, I flashed back to all the distractions, interruptions, and feelings of helplessness and inadequacy that I experienced going through school, the military, and even the working world. I connected with his feelings. I’ve been there.

I’ve given up my chances of becoming a pilot,” he said. 

“Why can’t you be a pilot?” I asked.

“I just cannot concentrate.”

I told him that I became a small aircraft pilot. It was a struggle, but I pushed through because I was determined to prove to myself that I could do it.

He got really excited when he heard this. I explained how I had to memorize charts, weight and balance, weather conditions, and wind directions.  There’s coordination, skills and many safety rules to learn. These are tough things to learn, but as a pilot, your life depends on it. 

“If I can do it, you can, too,” I told him. “Harness your interests, make your choice, determine what you need to do, develop a plan, and work your way through it. One step at a time.”

I’ll talk with this young man again soon. I’ll try to explain the memory and learning techniques that carried me throughout my academic years. Others scoffed at some of my techniques, but they worked for me, and that kept me going.

It’s brutal when an ADHD person tries to look to another ADHD person for advice, but that may be the gift that ADHD has given me: that I can turn around an offer comfort and advice to someone else who struggles with its entangling negative attributes.

God bless your day my friends as we learn together everyday. Bob Ossler Chaplain


Bob Ossler is coauthor of Triumph Over Terror, a multi-award-winning book about Chaplain Bob Ossler’s interactions with suffering people in New York City’s Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. His stories will touch your heart and fill you with compassion for those emergency services workers, search and rescue workers, recovery workers, construction crews, and volunteers who served there in impossible conditions. #NeverForget this time in US History. Read the message of hope in this book.

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Where were you on 9-11?

Everyone has a story of their memories of 9-11. This is the time of the year to share them.

Chaplain Bob Ossler spent 45 days over several months at Ground Zero in NYC after the newspaper 911 2terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Working at Ground Zero with emergency service providers and search and recovery workers filled his heart and mind with unforgettable memories.

It took him fifteen years to write about these events, but finally he did. Writing out his memories helped to clear the horrific images that burdened his mind for years.

You have memories of that day, too. How did 9-11 affect you?

Read Ossler’s touching stories in Triumph Over Terror.

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Never Forget September 11, 2001

For #ReadABookDay, please consider Triumph Over Terror now at a special rate of $3.99 on Kindle.

Multi-award winning book, Triumph Over Terror, can be summed up in one word:

September 11 Rescue and Recovery. Dan Schaefer photo. Used by permission. Triumph Over Terror by Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

September 11 Rescue and Recovery. Dan Schafer photo. Used by permission. Triumph Over Terror by Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck


We’ve all send the images of 9/11. Even though they were hard to look at, we could not turn our eyes away. So I braced myself to read Bob’s book, not wanting to remember those images and experience the pain of 9/11 all over again. I intended to take just a minute to see how Bob began his book but got hooked on the first page and just kept reading.

Triumph Over Terror isn’t just a history lesson. It’s a book full of life lessons.

Tim Shoemaker, speaker and author of Super Husband, Super Dad, and the Co of Silence Series

Triumph Over Terror is Chaplain Bob Ossler’s reflections on the days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Ossler spent 45 days in five tours at Ground Zero counseling heartbroken families of victims, and overworked and weary search and rescue teams, search and recover teams, construction workers, emergency services workers, and volunteers. This was an emotion-packed time for everyone.

Many communities host #NeverForget ceremonies in recognition of those who lost their lives in the disaster and those who served in the clean-up.



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September 11 Ground Zero Heroes

by Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

“Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver five minutes longer.” Ronald Reagan

First responders, emergency workers, firefighters, police officers, construction workers search and rescue teams, search and recovery teams, and all the volunteers associated with the war-zone clean-up of ruin and loss–these were the true Ground Zero heroes. Showing strength deep within their souls, these men and women embodied the definition of endurance, heart, and true grit.

Working on The Pile photo by Dan Shafer. Used by permission in Triumph Over Terror by Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

“Working on The Pile”– photo by Dan Shafer. Used by permission in Triumph Over Terror by Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

A hero willingly and knowingly risks personal safety and well-being for another human being. At Ground Zero, heroes of all kinds surrounded us. These heroes worked long hours during the day and then worked more hours at night under blazing lights. Committed to teamwork, they worked to the point of exhaustion and beyond, single-minded in purpose and laser-focused on the job at hand. After the hope of finding survivors faded, they doggedly searched for remains of work associates and civilians.

Danger surrounded them. Cave-ins on the Pile occurred without warning. The air they breathed contained not only the stench of death, but also asbestos particles, fiberglass splinters, toxic chemicals, and incinerated human remains–air that could poison their futures.

These heroes sacrificed time with their families to serve their crews, their city, and their country.

A few said, “It’s hard to be called a hero when you feel so eaten down and demoralized.” But these folks rose out of the ashes and served well. They deserve to be called heroes.

Excerpt from Triumph Over Terror


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Never Forget: Missing Persons, September 11, 2001

By Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

In memory of those who lost their lives at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks, and in recognition of the heroes who served there in the search and rescue, search and recovery, clean-up operations, and the volunteers who assisted them,  we will post multiple short excerpts from our book,  Triumph Over Terror during the month of September.

Missing Persons: Have You Seen Me?

“Walking the short distance to St. Paul’s Chapel, we encountered somber evidence of the huge number of people who died in the World Trade Center collapse.

MIssing Persons - After September 11. Photo by Mary Eble. Used by permission. Triumph Over Terror by Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Missing Persons after 9-11 Photo by Mary Eble. Used by permission in Triumph Over Terror by Ground Zero Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Frantic, grief-stricken loved ones, in confusion and disbelief, plastered photos and flyers for missing persons everywhere around the perimeter of Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan. Fluttering posters covered buildings, lampposts, fences, pillars, and windows.

Signs hung on chain-link fences and blocked existing ads on kiosks and subway walls.

Missing Persons photo on fence at St. Paul's Chapel. Photo by Mary Eble. From Triumph Over Terror by Ground Zero Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Missing Persons photo on fence at St. Paul’s Chapel. Photo by Mary Eble. From Triumph Over Terror by Ground Zero Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Signs. All sizes, colors, and shapes.  Hand-printed and computer-printed flyers. Hand-drawn and crayon-colored pictures by children. Photo collages of missing persons. Pictures of firefighters and police officers and emergency responders. Multi-generational family pictures. Photos of men and women, young and old. Thousands of pictures.

Loved ones…all lost in this vast destruction.”

Excerpt from Triumph Over Terror





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