Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Memories 10 Years After 9.11

The overwhelming sadness of that day ten years ago is hard to escape today. 911 was once just an emergency number to call.... now it is a call to a nation in the midst of an emergency.

Traffic, radio talking at me on the way to work, the World Trade Center has been hit by a plane.... a second plane hit..... buildings on fire..... the Pentagon hit by plane.

A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ..... my thoughts "here we go again." The country is now going through the same thing we went through in Oklahoma City six years ago.... on a much larger scale.

Ten days after the tragedy, our staff at Scope Ministries began to do rotations in NYC, assisting the Billy Graham organization in ministering to NYC. As the first team left and sent me back information on the assignment, I began designing training for our teams and others in the prayer center in lower Manhattan.

My shift was four weeks after the attack. I will never forget the sights, the sounds, and the smells of that time. Soon after arriving, one of our staff took us down to Ground Zero. It was dark, the sight was most intense at night. Even a month later, the fire still burned in the ground. Flakes of ashes, plumes of smoke, acrid smells still filled the air.

The media coverage could not adequately prepare me for the moment. The thick layer of dust over everything near the sight. The smell of the burning rubble. Hundreds of workers, day and night, digging in the pile with machinery until an appearance of anything slightly recognizable. They stopped. People with buckets and shovels went through the debris. Construction workers loaded trucks to carry out the pile.

Fire would flame up, smoke would pour out profusely as fresh oxygen would feed a newly uncovered hot spot. Firefighters doused the fires as heavy equipment operators moved their huge mechanical arms to lift up more steel, more devastation.

I stood on a bridge over a road travelled by the trucks of wreckage to take this smoldering pile to make a new pile on Staten Island. On the island, workers went through the pile to find any small item - a piece of a credit card, a bone, a ring - anything to bring an identity to those lost.

I stood on the top of the Empire State Building just before closing one night. Even miles away, I could see the smoke, the bright lights for the workers, the empty sky above that pile.

In the center where I was working, I talked to New Yorkers who were just living life but were traumatized by their life. One EMT who was not on duty that day; when he went to work the next day, a fellow EMT showed pictures of what he saw while on duty during that awful day. The images would not leave him

A forgotten package in the subway brings the system to a halt. A slight earthquake shakes the nerves of those huddled in their apartments. A routine task of opening the mail took fortitude as the anthrax threat loomed.

New Yorkers staffed the phones at the prayer center where I was working. They would answer and comfort their fellow New Yorkers. When the needs of the caller went beyond their level of comfort, we would assist. One night after the volunteers had left, the phone rang and I answered it while we were gathering our belongings to leave for the night. A trembling voice was on the other end. She wanted comfort, peace, relief from the fear. When I told her that I was from Oklahoma City, she was amazed. It was a God-moment.

New Yorkers instantly felt relieved when we told them where we were from; we knew something of what they were experiencing. They would open up to us in a way they wouldn't with anyone else, but this young woman was taken aback. She grew up in Oklahoma City. She was about my age. Her family in Oklahoma were people of faith, but she had not been a believer. She wanted peace with God through Jesus Christ; she wanted Him. She believed that she had to be aggressive in sharing the gospel because of those that shared the gospel with her, . She wanted Him, but she didn't want to be like them. I prayed with her and encouraged her in her faith.

The streets were busy but not bustling.

The street vendors were still selling, but they were selling Americana.

The Big Apple slowed down but did not stop and did not cease - not that year, not this year.

America remains. God Bless America.