As an eye witness to the unprecedented attack of the Twin Towers, I want to give you a brief glimpse from my personal perspective, of how God warned and prepared us as a church. Today, on the eve of the tenth year anniversary, my wife and I continue to extend a prayer for strength and comfort to the families who lost loved ones on that day.
As a nation, I think we all grew a little older, and a little wiser on September, 11, 2001. Idyllic life in the United States, was shattered into a thousand pieces in just one hour. Pain, loss and confusion, swept across the country as we all tried to come to terms, and get to grips, with the destruction which happened before our very eyes.
My day had begun early. I was already sitting at my desk which looks out the South / East window. You could clearly see the Empire State Building, standing slightly to my left, and the Twin Towers, which were clearly visible on that magnificent blue skied morning, was on my right. Our apartment was on the 25th floor of the World Wide Plaza. I was at my computer putting the finishing touches to a message I would be preaching in the service that night.
Times Square Church, (TSC) had been experiencing an unusual manifestation of the presence of God. The Holy Spirit was bringing into the sanctuary a stillness, so quiet you could hear a pin drop. A solemnity, so profoundly real, you did not know what to do next in the meeting. You felt if you even breathed too hard, you would break the holy silence. I have never been in meetings like that before or since.
A couple of months earlier when returning from Rochester, NY. with Carter Conlon, senior pastor of TSC, he had read the epistle of Hebrews out loud while I drove. As he read chapter after chapter, the book gripped us with a new sense of urgency. We decided in the automobile that day, we would preach / teach it together with Teresa Conlon, associate pastor at Times Square over the next few months.
This combination of the New Testament's epistle to the Hebrews, being taught, and the breath taking presence of God in the sanctuary, left us all with the distinct knowledge, He was warning us concerning an up coming disaster. No one knew what, when, or where. We just knew in our spirit, we had to be ready as a congregation.
God always warns His people. As a church in the heart of Manhattan, God was preparing us for what was coming. We were listening and were attentive to His promptings. But none of us could have imagined the magnitude of what happened that day.
David Wilkerson, a watchman, called and anointed to bring warning after warning to the church, confirmed this was God clearly speaking to us through a Holy Ghost hush. Pastor Dave, years ago recognized the Western church in many cases, had lost it's spiritual compass and true moral moorings. He saw much of it heading into the Laodicean debacle. Laodicea, a first century church, had equated worldly riches with spiritual riches. God had called it wretched, naked, and blind. Yet He stood at the door and knocked, and if anyone would hear Him, He would come in, and fellowship with them, and them with Him. We were having quiet but divine fellowship and we were hearing Him.
The phone rang! Surprised, I picked it up answering the call. It was a friend of ours in Colorado. I stopped working on my message. I gazed out the window watching workers on a building a couple of blocks to the south of us. Then I saw it. It was a passenger plane flying way too low passing on the north side of the Empire State Building. With my friend still on the phone I yelled to Noline; "The plane is too low, the plane is too low. I think the pilot is going to land it in the Hudson." She ran to join me. I was now standing and I dropped the phone on the desk, and ran to the living room window which faces directly south.
I watched, dumb founded, as the aircraft banked sharply to the left and continued flying down the Hudson river. It kept that arched turn as it then flew directly into the North Tower. The ball of fire which immediately erupted was so huge, it completely engulfed the top of the Tower. From that 25th floor, we saw the South Tower hit and then both Towers collapse. My son who had an appointment that day in the North Tower, was now with us. His appointment was for 10am, he said he could not get an earlier slot, otherwise he would have been in the Tower. Thank God, Deryk was one of the fortunate, that day.
As a church, we assembled a crew in minutes. They had blankets, water and sandwiches, ready to take to the first responders at ground zero. Our feeding van we use to take food to the homeless on the streets of Manhattan, was now parked as close as permissible to the disaster area. From there a team of volunteers worked tirelessly handing out water and sandwiches to any and all who needed.
The church opened it's doors to, "come one, come all." Anyone and everyone who wandered up from downtown, was welcomed with open arms. Throughout the ordeal, we joined the thousands of others across the city who gave everything they could to help in the disaster.
In the subsequent trauma of those affected by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Times Square Church, was one of many who hosted on site training to help counsel those who were immediately affected by 9/11.
We remember those who died that day, we remember them all. The innocent and the brave. We salute you. You will not be forgotten, you will always be honored by us. May the families who lost loved ones feel the warmth of our prayers, and take courage in this day of remembrance.