Seven years ago, we lived just over an hour from Manhattan. The church I worked in was on the border of Connecticut and Rhode Island, near a nuclear submarine base in Groton. I remember going into the office and somebody commenting about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. I turned on the TV, watched in horror as smoke billowed from the first tower, just as millions had begun to do that morning.
Then the second plane hit.
I had a mentoring call scheduled with my dear friend, Bill Armerding, who lived in Vancouver. I called him shortly after 9am, 6am his time. I said, "We’ll have to postpone our call." He turned on the TV too.
I called my wife… strangely worried that I might not see her again. The silly thing was that she worked just down the street… but nobody could figure out what was happening. It’s a remarkable thing how in this tragic moment I just wanted to be with her. Being apart from her at that moment seemed very wrong.
Those in our office mentioned that our neighbor had a family member
who worked at the WTC. As I started to go out the door to walk over to
their house, praying that I would have words to say and love to offer,
another plane hit the Pentegon. Our Day Care provider had a brother
who worked there. Our son was at her home. I called her, nervously
hoping that I wasn’t going to be the one to share the news with her…
but she was already waiting to hear from her family… at least it was the end of the building that was under construction. She was worried, but calm, and said she
would keep our son for the day unless she heard news to change that
It wasn’t long before the busy flight path above us, which ran
between Boston and New York, grew quiet. The sky was completely bare
of activity by noon. As I again picked up the nerve to walk over to the
neighbor’s house, I noticed the eerie silence in the sky. Then I heard
a distant rumble. I actually remember stopping in the middle of the
parking lot of our church, not knowing if the growing roar was a
dangerous sound or not. It grew and grew until it began shaking
everything around me. At the height of the tremble a military jet
screamed right over the church steeple… I’m guessing only about 100 feet off the
ground. I think my heart just about stopped.
I never did hear what happened to our neighbor’s brother. They had left
for New York City already by the time I made it over to their house. We didn’t see
them much after that. (Our Day Care provider’s brother was fine… but
obviously shaken by the events.)
A good friend of ours worked as a chief officer on one of the nuclear subs stationed in Groton. He was quickly
deployed and spent a few months under the seas… popping up in odd places in the world… waiting for orders. Others
from our church went down to ground zero to help with Salvation Army and Red Cross recovery
efforts. The firemen and police officers connected to our church were
forever changed… and took shifts going to Manhattan to assist their
brothers and sisters in uniform. Many others in our church had sons
and daughters who joined the military… and who have now been off to
That day marked a new struggle, for millions of people, with the
reality of evil in our world. We could watch evil in action. And it
made me throw up later that day. I hate evil. It destroys.
I remember praying that
God would be in the midst of the rubble, with those who perished, with
those who were perishing, with those whose families were horrified and
worried and looking for loved ones, and with our world, which suddenly,
on a brilliantly clear day, had become so clouded with darkness.
There’s so much more to reflect upon… and maybe you’d like to take a few moments to recall what you were doing at that moment seven years ago. Maybe some other time I’ll share how a few days
later in September of 2001, I met Regis Philbin at McDonalds… and offered prayer for New
York… but I’ll stop the story telling for now.
James, thanks for that memory. Too bad your teacher didn’t get it. There are certain times when a curriculum schedule is not appropriate for learning. I appreciate your prayer for her… and I’ll join in.
The Regis story will be kept for another day!
I was in high school at the time. The teacher I had was a very bitter old lady. I remember her leaving the class room to hear of what was taking place. Upon her return, she simply continued teaching, either thinking we didn’t care or she simply didn’t. When I came home and turned on the TV. I remember standing straight up on my two feet for the next five hours, stunned by the events and overwhelmed with God’s blessing of safety he had given my family and I.
The next day, my teacher did not even speak of it. “Lord I pray for my teacher, wherever she is now, that you soften her heart and open her eyes to your beautiful grace.”
Thank you for your story Ken. It is encouraging to see your faith for Christ and your love for your wife continue to stay prominent amongst such tragedy.
I would like to hear the Regis story too!