This is the first episode of a two-part series, you can listen to episode two here.
This episode contains details about 9/11 that may be disturbing for some. Please listen with care.
In the first episode of the Remembering 9/11 series, Sarah Zylstra follows the story of Christina and Brian Stanton, who were blown back into their apartment and knocked unconscious by the impact of the second plane hitting the south World Trade Center tower.
The couple raced to evacuate Manhattan as the beautiful blue, cloudless September sky turned black above them.
Four miles north, the staff of Redeemer Presbyterian Church climbed out a window onto a balcony. From there, they saw both towers collapse. Four hours south, the staff of Capitol Hill Baptist Church could feel the reverberations of the plane slamming into the Pentagon.
Half a country away, John Piper looked at the staff of his Bethlehem Baptist Church and told them, “This changes everything.”
In these stories of loss, trauma, redemption, and eternal hope, we see that God was, and is, and always will be at work—even in the darkest moments.
Resources and references from this episode:
- “Truth, Tears, Anger, and Grace” (Tim Keller’s sermon to Redeemer Presbyterian Church on September 16, 2001)
- “A Service of Sorrow, Self-Humbling, and Steady Hope in Our Savior and King, Jesus Christ” (John Piper’s sermon to Bethlehem Baptist Church on September 16, 2001)
- “When Bad Things Happen” (Bert Daniel’s sermon to Capitol Hill Baptist Church on September 16, 2001)
- “Terrorism, Justice, and Loving Our Enemies” (by John Piper on September 12, 2001)
- “21 Ways to Comfort Those Who Are Suffering” (by John Piper on September 12, 2001)
- “Boatlift, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience” (video documentary on the boat rescue evacuation September 11, 2001)
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Sarah Zylstra: In September, 2001, Christina Stanton was on top of the world.
Christina Stanton: I did what a lot of people do, I packed one little suitcase of clothes and made my way up to New York and said, here I am, I want to be on the Broadway stage.
Sarah Zylstra: Christina was 23 when she landed in New York City. The first thing she learned was that making it big was harder than it looked. She auditioned all the time, but there weren’t enough gigs to pay the bills. So she picked up the day job as a tour guide and she gathered roommates to share costs in a tiny apartment near Times Square. She made a few attempts to attend church. She’d grown up in a Christian family, but she only knew of four congregations and any way there were too many other things. After a while, Christina settled in, she was really good at giving tours and she moved from double-decker tour buses to private companies. She met a man named Brian on match.com. By the way, they were one of the first successful couples of match.com, and they’re still the longest married couple on that website. Brian was moving his way up in the financial world, he was nominally Catholic, but by now she was only culturally Protestant. Religion wasn’t important to either one of them.
Christina Stanton: So we both had a different religious backgrounds that definitely made us believe in Jesus. However, how it was being played out in our lives at the time was very shallow, very compartmentalized, was not an active part of our lives. We hadn’t found a church, we hadn’t even started to try. It wasn’t deep, it didn’t affect our everyday life, for sure.
Sarah Zylstra: When nobody’s going to church, you don’t have to argue about which one to attend. Happy together Brian and Christina got married. They moved into a new apartment in the Financial District that had the rarest of things in New York City, a sizeable outdoor terrace. If you stood on it, your eyes would be drawn right to the World Trade Center Tower, just six blocks away. And these aren’t six big city blocks like in downtown Chicago, when New York made their streets, they basically paved over horse trails. And so downtown the blocks are tiny.
Christina Stanton: We had a new puppy, it was a Boston Terrier and everything was new, it was a new puppy, it was this new apartment, it was all of our stuff was new. And I thought, wow, the sky’s the limit. And I thought that as I was looking at these two towers that stretched out into the sky and that’s how I felt. I was like, wow, this is a new beginning and we have this awesome future and we’re going to roll this town and we’re going to take it on. And I was thinking about the parties and all of the trappings. I just wanted it all.
Sarah Zylstra: But that was before the sky came crashing down. A few weeks ago, I flew to New York to walk around Manhattan with Christina while she told me what happened.
Heather Ferrell: You’re listening to the Remembering 9/11 series on recorded the all-new storytelling podcast from The Gospel Coalition. In this episode, TGC senior writer Sarah Zylstra takes us back through the events of September 11th, 2001. We do want to note that today’s episode includes details of 9/11, that could be disturbing for some. So please listen with care. Now here’s Sarah with the story of this episode.
Sarah Zylstra: The sky outside Christina’s terrace windows on September 11th, 2001 was a perfect cloudless blue. By 8:45 AM, the streets are filled up with people on their way to work. Each day, about 50,000 of them would end up in the World Trade Center complex, which house about 430 companies. Chris Giammona was already at work, up the street in another building. He worked in the corporate offices of Marsh McLennan, a professional services firm.
Chris Giammona: So I actually went into work early that morning and my office faces south so I was looking right at the One World Trade Center when I saw the first plane go by. And honestly who sits there thinks, a plane is flying by. You didn’t know… What it was at first, I thought it was like a projectile. When it hit the building, the building burst in the flames at the floor. And there was a colleague in the office with me and she started counting down the floors and said, “I think that plane hit right about our floor. We have three floors.”
Sarah Zylstra: It did hit their floors. While Chris watched nearly 300 of his colleagues lost their lives most before they even knew anything was wrong. Chris called his wife, Barbara who worked in the Morgan Stanley headquarters, a few miles away.
Chris Giammona: And I said, “Barbara, I think the plane just hit the World Trade Center.” But you didn’t stop to think jet, right? You just thought, okay, some small plane was out flying and maybe the pilot had a heart attack and the plane just went and hit the building. Additionally, nobody thought anything about it until you started hearing the CNN reports. And then you started seeing clips of this jetliner going over some workers on the street or something. And you were like, “Oh, this is more serious than we thought it was.”
Sarah Zylstra: Meanwhile, Christina was still sleeping. When the first plane hit the north tower, Brian was working on his computer in the other room.
Christina Stanton: He looked up and went out on our 300 square foot terrace to see what just happened that just shook our building. And he saw flames coming from either side of the north tower. Now that first plane flew from north to south and it lodged into the tower. It didn’t come up the other side. So that was the facade that we saw.
Sarah Zylstra: So the north side?
Christina Stanton: We saw the south side and if the plane had come through the building, it would have come through that side. So instead it lodged in. So all we saw were flames on either side of the building. We didn’t know what had happened. So Brian came and woke me up and he was in quite a panic. And he said, “Somebody must have detonated a bomb at the World Trade Center.” And mind you it was not far from 1993 in February when they had done that. So I hopped out of bed, ran to our terrace and we were just watching this crazy scene. From the 24th floor, you don’t hear a lot of street noise.
So watching the police cars and the ambulances with their sirens going off, going up the West Side Highway towards the World Trade Center, people were screaming collectively. It just, all didn’t make sense in your brain as your brain is trying to understand and calculate like what is going on. Then all of a sudden, over my right hand shoulder, the second plane came just 500 feet above us because that second plane hit between the 78th and 86th floors.
Sarah Zylstra: The shock waves from the impact blew them both backward and knocked them out.
Christina Stanton: We had left our terrace doors open, which ended up being a blessing, but I woke up lying on our living room floor with our dog Gabriel, jumping on my torso, scared to death, very upset. And I remember Brian saying different things to me. I was having a hard time calculating what he was saying, but I did discern, I do remember him saying, “Do you want your shoes?” And I remember saying, “No, let’s get out of here.”
Sarah Zylstra: Christina raced down 24 flights of stairs, Brian, who did grab his shoes and his wallet and their dog was a minute or two behind her. They emerged from their apartment building to find a street full of people, moving toward them. I want you to picture where they are here. Their borough Manhattan sits on a small skinny island on the Southern end of it, it narrows even further into a little pencil tip. Brian and Christina live on that tip. North of them the burning towers stood between them and the rest of the city, but nobody they saw was trying to get north to the rest of the city. People were running south past Brian and Christina to a place called Battery Park at the very end of the island.
Christina Stanton: About that time, I was still collecting myself and I realized wow, I’m in my pajamas with no shoes. So I thought, oh my goodness, I need to get back and let’s start this all over again. Let’s go back into our home. Let me put on some clothes, grab my purse, things that we need, and yes, evacuate again but let’s do a take two on this. We turned the corner to go to the front of our building. And Miguel, our doorman was like, “Christina, we can’t let anybody in, evacuation only.” I was like, “Miguel, look at me, I’m in my pajamas.” He was like “I’m so sorry, Christina, but we can’t let you.” But you know what? Brian gave me his socks. I was fine. And also when I was watching people on the street running past and all crazed and bloodied and shredded clothes and completely panicked, I was like, no one cares what I’m wearing.
So what happens next is, your inner alarm is dinging and saying go as far away from the danger as possible and for us, so if you see here right now, if I’m looking north, north is the World Trade Center complex, a 16 acre conference. That was more for us. So you can’t go north, that’s the danger. And you can’t go west, that’s the Hudson River, the coastline stops, you run out of land. So what you had was south. South made the most sense. So south for us is Battery Park, which we’re going to go to now. The Battery Park for us was as far away as we could get before we ran out of land, which became the New York Harbor. But once we went to the few blocks to Battery Park, we felt we were safe there and that was fine. So it turns out we weren’t safe at all.
Sarah Zylstra: I want you to know what a small area Christina and Brian were operating in. So from the World Trade Centers to the New York Harbor, with the Stanton’s apartment and Battery Park in between is only about a mile. If Brian and Christina had turned north from their apartment, it would have taken them less than 10 minutes to walk over to the Twin Towers. Turning south toward the park at the bottom of the island, took them less than five. The Battery Park itself is not huge, it’s only about 25 acres, but it has always been strategic.
Dutch settlers built a fort there in the 1600 to protect the earliest version of the city and then the American built a second fort to fend off the British in the war of 1812. That fort is still there, today you can see the walls and a battery of cannons that stood guard against foreign attacks. By the way, the community next to the park, which is named Battery Park City was where Chris Giommona lived. We’ll hear from him again later. Battery Park City was built in the 1970s when New York City dumped rocks and dirt into the water to extend the island. Where did they get enough landfill material to do that? Well, much of it came from the construction of the World Trade Center complex.
Christina Stanton: You see, it’s just a few blocks from our apartment. And what happened was all of the emergency vehicles were coming from this area whipping around the bottom of Manhattan and going up the West Side Highway.
Sarah Zylstra: So right?
Christina Stanton: Because they’re all racing towards the building and that was their route as they were coming this way. And meanwhile, I remember we stayed here at the very top of the park, hugging the park, this is a sidewalk that is the very tip of the park. And I remember watching people come to this sidewalk and it’s almost like they’ve finished a marathon, like kind of that watching people like, “Oh, we’ve crossed over the finish line. We’ve made it to safety.”
People would sit down. People would sit on the ground and were panting, but it is like, we all have the same idea that this is a safe place, we’re out of danger. Meanwhile, none of our cell phones were working. And so what everybody knew of what was going on, the people coming in probably had more updated information. So everybody was saying, “Hey, do you know what’s going on? Did you just leave the TV? Or did you leave the office where you weren’t watching the news? Do you know updates?” And so we were up here listening to different rumors that we’d heard about…
Sarah Zylstra: In all those rumors though, one was missing. Nobody was worried about the stability of the buildings. Not a single person suggested they might collapse.
Christina Stanton: That’s where we heard a rumor that a plane had already hit the United Nation. We heard that a plane was in route to the Statue of Liberty. And I was getting so panicked by listening to everybody who were just trying to get… What’s was really wild, is all of this, we were in the midst of all this and we didn’t know what was going on.
Sarah Zylstra: Panicked by what they were hearing Brian and Christina decided to move to the other side of the park, to the Southern most edge right next to the water.
Christina Stanton: I wanted to get as far away and try to collect myself because I still felt like I was in this panic mode and I couldn’t think straight, I just was trying to think. So we came down to here and you see all these benches all around, we sat down on a bench and I remember staring at the Statue of Liberty, just worried that a plane was going to fly into her. And it was a day like today, look how gorgeous it is, the sky is blue, you can see a Staten Island right there and you can see a little Governors Island right there. So I just felt like this was a calming place to be. But then all of a sudden the ground started rumbling and I could not think of why was the ground moving. Was it an earthquake? Was it a bomb? Come on, did a plane actually go into the ground? But I remember hearing this collective scream kind of like if you’re in a sports stadium and all a sudden, everybody understood at the same time the building is coming down.
People went nuts because again, these towers were so high in the sky. You knew that if they fell lengthwise in any direction and let’s say it fell south, it could have hit us. We are all very aware of that. So people went absolutely nuts. They were catapulting over these benches and the fences and the shrubs and trees. It was almost like an obstacle course down here. And they were trying to get again as far away from the danger as possible. But then guess what? Then here’s the coastline. That’s the New York Harbor. I did watch people pitch themselves into the Harbor and I knew they were trying to swim to Governor’s Island, which is probably as close as you could get to here, the quickest swim.
Sarah Zylstra: It’s about a mile from Battery Park to Governor’s Island, which would take a strong amateur swimmer about 45 minutes to an hour. It’s not an impossible feat, but the recent triathlons always start with swimming is because it’s easy for a fatigued person, even an athlete to drown. And nobody in Battery Park was feeling fresh and rested and ready to start a triathlon at 10:15 AM on September 11.
Christina Stanton: We started running with the crowd. We started running, we ran east towards the Staten Island Ferry, hoping that we could get on a ferry, but at that particular time they had abandoned the ferry boats. Then all of a sudden a huge wall of black smoke came down from the downed north tower. And I’m sorry, that would have been the south tower at the time. But it hit the ground. And the idea of not being able to breathe was even scarier than being hit by potential building revel. It’s almost like your body does something really crazy of like the idea of not being able to breathe. And that’s when people really, I felt that, that the most extreme panic, I remember somebody running with their German Shepherd on a leash, everybody’s running crazily, another woman running up to the woman with the dog, tripping on this leash, it probably hit her around the knees, flipping over the leash, landing on her back, didn’t move. And I remember watching the woman with the German Shepherd look back and circle back and ask if she was okay. And I didn’t see anything more of that.
Also, I remember, I have these strange bits of memory of we’re near one of the buildings that came down was a Marriott that was on the grounds of the World Trade Center site complex and they were all wearing this dress. It was like a brown dress with, it said the Marriott had cuffs white sleeves. And there was a whole bunch of them, but they were running around. I remember thinking what a strange sight. I mean, but all of it was a strange sight. I remember seeing an Asian businessmen who’s literally his three-piece business suit were gone by the knees and it was all shredded and his face was so contorted in this terrible look. It’s just one of those things that’s etched in your memory. But yet I remember the juxtaposition of he was still holding his briefcase and he was running with it. I mean, none of it made sense. We were really so close to those towers, that when they came down the dust immediately infiltrated the air and was so thick in the air.
You can hear the rumble, the rumble sounded like it was literally right behind us, but the dust obscured, anything you could see, you couldn’t see past these tree tops. We were almost like… Somebody said, “We’re too far away to see it fall.” I said, “Actually the opposite, we’re too close to see it.” And the dust that it kicked up immediately obscured. And we were worried about the dust. We were worried we couldn’t breathe through the dust. We were worried about the smoke, being asphyxiated by the smoke. And at that point, you’re realizing, wow, okay, so if any worse than this, and that means death because that’s the natural progression, it can’t get any much worse, but if it did, that’s where we would be going.
Sarah Zylstra: Death from asphyxiation or getting hit by flying debris is a terrifying thing to face. But how much scarier would it be if you didn’t have the hope of heaven to claim to.
Christina Stanton: We find ourselves right there within the circular fort of Castle Clinton, we’re kind of hugging the fort walls, and we’re just looking around watching everybody crazily, running, panting, our dog was completely tired. We watched Gabriel flopped down into the dust, trying to catch a breath. We’re still trying to breathe. I remember looking at Ryan just saying, “Are we going to die?” And he said, “I don’t know, maybe.” And he grabbed my hands and he started saying the Lord’s prayer. And I remember I didn’t bow, I didn’t close my eyes, which is what he was doing. I was looking around and I remember concentrating on him at one point and thinking, gosh, I’m so glad I’m with him because we’re going to die and I’m with my new husband, and all these people running around are not with their loved ones. They don’t have… They can’t even call them and say goodbye. And I remember thinking, I grew up in a Christian home. I grew up, I was baptized at 11 years old, but I had long since strayed, I was even reconsidering my faith.
Sarah Zylstra: Christina thought about how easy it had been to call herself a Christian growing up and how much harder that had gotten when she moved to New York. She wondered if she even deserved to go to heaven, if her baptism was enough, she asked for forgiveness for the angry fight she’d recently had with someone, she felt like a hypocrite asking for God’s help now, when she hadn’t thought of him in ages.
Christina Stanton: It was a very lonely feeling. Even though I’m here with my husband and my dog, at least we’re together. I experienced some profound happiness by finding him and starting this exciting new life together. And I’m like all of those things that I wanted to be in do, none of that’s helping me now. None of that means a hill of beans now, in fact, there’s nothing that I can fall on now, except for God. And I don’t have God. That was a big moment that I think about a lot, because that ended up being a pivotal moment in my life. It was my own ground zero.
Sarah Zylstra: After a while, Brian and Christina started moving down the street again, Brian saw the smoke was blowing south and figured if they walked east, they might be able to get clear of some of it. They made their way past trees and flowers and reflecting pools, completely coated with a ghoulish looking ash.
Christina Stanton: It was a strange substance, I remember, it wasn’t sand. It was small granules like sand, but it was sticky. And it would stick to you. It didn’t like slide off you like sand would. It literally was like a bucket of sand had been thrown on you, but that’s sand stuck.
Sarah Zylstra: The substance was a mixture of pulverized, concrete, wood wiring, and well, bodies. Coated in it Brian and Christina sat down to rest on a spot of grass. They were out of the main column of smoke now, and they could see the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island. They could also see New Jersey across the Hudson River about a mile away. Normally it felt so close you could touch it. Now it seems so far away you could never reach it. When the police officer ran up also completely yellow, the only way Christina recognized him was his hat. Hey, he told the crowd “That second tower is coming down, get down by the river and turn your backs to it.” So they did, pressed up against an iron railing that separates the seawall from the Hudson River, they felt the rumble of the collapse.
Christina Stanton: I just remember, we all just stood up at the railing when it was clear that it was finished falling. And again, we just felt so trapped, like the world is falling and we don’t know, we’re surrounded by water. We don’t know where to go or what to do.
Sarah Zylstra: About four miles north of Christina, on the other side of the disaster, the staff of Redeemer Presbyterian Church heard about the first plane on the radio. At this time, Andrea Mungo was in charge of the diaconate, which cared for the needs of the congregation.
Andrea Mungo: I usually would get to the office sometime between 8:30 and nine. And we were at 271 Madison at the time on the 15th floor, and I walked off the elevators and I always check in with the receptionist on the right. And he was there listening to the radio and had just heard the news himself. And so I stand there and try to comprehend what I’m hearing on the radio. And I’m stunned. I’m in shock. Several of us that were already there, went out on the balcony, you could climb out a window to a balcony that was right on Madison Avenue, and we were able to look down, look south, and we could see the towers burning.
And so we just gathered there watching in horror, what was happening. And then we saw the towers, the first one fall at 10:00 AM, and the second one fell it at 10:30, we were able to see them go down. I mean, this 271 Madison is like right around East 38th, so it was pretty far up, but we were able to see it because they were huge towers you know? And then one of our pastors, pastor Tim Pettit, who was there with us, he gathered us for prayer shortly thereafter. And I remember the Psalm, Psalm 46, we prayed through, it starts with “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear.”
Sarah Zylstra: Redeemer’s founding pastor Tim Keller was out of the office, but not out of town. He’d planned to spend the day at the hospital while his youngest son had surgery on an injured leg.
Tim Keller: We were actually getting ready to take Jonathan to the hospital. Of course, that was immediately canceled. We did watch the second plane. It was astounding to see it actually just disintegrated. I mean, nobody thought that would happen. It was like another planet, other world.
Sarah Zylstra: Christina and Brian felt like they were in another world. They were huddled together against a black iron railing. The only thing between them and the water. And then they saw boats.
Christina Stanton: The coast guard knew that there was thousands of us down here at Battery Park, south of the devastation who were trapped or at least hemmed in, and they had to move us off this island. So they issued a radio call saying, “Hey, maritime industry in New York and New Jersey, if you own a boat or a boat operator, come to Battery Park, Battery Park City, and start picking people up and drop them off somewhere. So all of these boats started coming and picking people up and I heard they would drop them off at Governor’s Island or Staten Island and New Jersey or some, I understand went up the Hudson and dropped them off at, let’s say Upper Manhattan. But you see where we found ourselves here, this isn’t a docking area. There’s no peer.
So what they did was, the boats in this particular area got up as close to the sea wall as possible threw over ropes and there were guys that were helping to chuck people in, I have seen pictures of ladders, like there’s some ladders that they would try to balance on here so people could… But our particular boat, we were checking ourselves in. And so I remember there was two burly guys that to me, clearly worked in the maritime industry, but I didn’t know why they were here, how did they get here? Who singled them out to help load the boats? I wasn’t sure. They took our dog first and one guy said, “Hey, does this dog bite?” I remember thinking, why are they asking if the dog bites? But of course, when they took the dog from Brian and chucked him into the boat, was he going to get spooked and bite? But when it was my turn, I sat on this curved railing to balance myself.
And then these two guys took me by the arms and lowered me into the boat. I remember one guy saying to the other guy, because I had on one of these cotton dress gown nightgowns on. And he said, “Hey man, watch the lady’s skirt.” And I remember thinking, what is he saying? Why is he saying that? And I thought maybe he was talking about somebody else. Of course it wasn’t until later when I kind of collected myself, I realized they were trying to protect my modesty, which was so sweet, I mean, and I couldn’t feel less like a lady at that time, like Lady is not in the house. I’m yellow, I’m literally filthy and my hair is in a Mohawk, I’m in a night gown and he was trying to protect my modesty. It was one of those things that you wish you could say, thank you. Or if I could find that person, but yeah, lost the time. But I never forgot that.
Sarah: Did you sort of have to jump onto…
Christina Stanton: We did, jump on…
Sarah Zylstra: Christina and Brian’s boat dropped them off in New Jersey in a place called Paulus Hook and then turned around and went back for more passengers. Over nine hours, hundreds of boats, commuter fairies, dinner cruises, private yachts, fishing boats would rescue about half a million people trapped on the toxic tip of Manhattan. It would become the largest water evacuation in history. [inaudible] Let’s go back to earlier that morning before New York began breaking and burning. In Washington DC, the staff of Capitol Hill Baptist Church gathered for a regular Tuesday morning meeting at lead pastor Mark Dever’s house. Rachel Croft was the church’s children’s director. And she lived with her husband Scott on the church campus. Here’s Scott Croft.
Scott Croft: So I was getting ready for work and I can’t remember, I think it was Rachel who I called, but I picked up my very large brick-like cell phone and tried to make a call to someone and I could not get a signal at all. There was no cell service and that was extremely unusual on Capitol Hill, right in the middle of an urban area. So I thought, well, that’s weird. And then I walked over to the church office and there was nobody there. I was like, okay, it’s Tuesday, so there’s staff meetings. So I walked over there and Mark and Rachel and Bill and I can’t remember who else was there and they had the TV on and they said, “You got to see this.” The first plane had hit and then the second plane hit while we were all there.
Sarah Zylstra: At first Scott and the rest of the team thought this was only a New York problem.
Scott Croft: We literally felt it first before we knew anything. We had watched the two planes hit the Twin Towers in New York. And then all of a sudden sitting in Mark’s study, it felt like there were a bunch of kids on the floor above jumping off bunk beds at the same time. So we hear this noise and Mark’s house shakes, and it was significant enough, loud enough, palpable enough in feeling that we thought it was the Capitol.
Sarah Zylstra: Here’s Mark Dever.
Mark Dever: I heard a loud explosion, but from a distance, I looked out my study window just here to my rights and I could see smoke to my extreme right. But that’s not, that would not be the White House. The White House I couldn’t see from here, and so I thought, well, that doesn’t make sense. And then within like 60 seconds, they’re switching over and saying the Pentagon has been hit. And that made sense. That’s where you could see the smoke is coming down from that direction.
Sarah Zylstra: While Mark was inside, figuring out where the smoke was coming from, Scott was doing the same thing outside.
Scott Croft: So I immediately ran downstairs, went outside, ran across Caddie Corner from 5th Street to East Capitol to look at the Capitol Building. And the Capitol Building was obviously intact, but there were people in suits, ties, business attire, running, screaming from the Capitol Building down the stairs and running up east Capitol street toward me. So then we knew that something had happened in DC, but we didn’t know where or what. Obviously it turned out to be the Pentagon.
Sarah Zylstra: The runners told Scott, they’d gotten a warning that a plane was coming for the building and everyone should get out. They didn’t know what else was happening. They heard maybe a plane was coming for the White House. They heard there was a bomb in front of the FBI building. It felt like chaos, Scott ran back inside.
Scott Croft: So I went back up to the study. I said, nothing’s at the Capitol, but they think it might. Mark, their house was four floors, including a basement. So I said, do we want to go down? Do we want to go out? We were thinking it through. Mark had us pray. Whoever was in there, we all prayed including for the terrorists, not solely for them, but including them, which I thought was weird at the time. But I’ve since realized that was just the right thing.
Sarah Zylstra: For Mark Dever and Tim Keller, it was a day of phone calls trying to figure out if anyone from their congregations had been killed or injured in the attacks. While both had members inside the fallen buildings, none had been killed, but everyone in their congregations was devastated.
Tim Keller: There were friends who worked at the Pentagon, who people I knew were killed, though none of our members. And we had more people that we were… I remember because our church was close to, in the Twin Towers because there were so many people there. We had a former fiance, we had a cousin. Yeah. So there were lots of people that were known well. There were people close to [inaudible] church. There was one family who their little four year old son had his playmate Killed. He was with his family, he’d flown on a plane from National airport was headed out to the Midwest to see their family and they were on the plane when it turned around hit Pentagon. So he off to that family, I think just remembering the strangeness of trying to explain to a family, death to a four year old for their friend, for nothing they did wrong, other than get on the plane to go see their grandparents, the suddenness of it, the unexpectedness of it.
Sarah Zylstra: The death toll of nearly 3000 people was at the same time, horrifically, large and blessedly small. When you consider about 50,000 people worked in the seven buildings of the World Trade Center complex and another 27,000 worked in the Pentagon. Those 3000 lives would spark a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, spur the creation of the department of Homeland Security and reshape air travel. And they would change the way Americans thought about religion. Here’s John Piper, then pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
John Piper: I don’t remember the very moment that I heard it, but I remember standing in the kitchen after breakfast, knowing it through the radio. Tuesdays are when we have our, in those days when we had our staff meeting that was coming in about 30 minutes or less. And so I knew I’m just quickly trying to get ready for my staff meeting and this news is breaking over me. My overwhelming sense was this changes everything. This changes everything. Immediately my day is gone, this week is gone, everything is different for the foreseeable future. And then I knew everything is different for the nation because my mind thought 50,000 people, they were saying before the towers fell 50,000 people work in those buildings and it’s workday. And I’m thinking as the thoughts come kind of hold back the tears and shaking, just like no. Everything is changed.
Sarah Zylstra: After hearing the news on his radio he set out toward his office.
John Piper: I had a boombox, not a huge one, and I put it on my shoulder and walked and I walked across my bridge. I’ve walked across this bridge 15,000 times on the way to church and I’ve got this boombox on my shoulder, that’s my best technology. So I went to church, I walked into the room, I remembered the very room, I remember the table, I remember on which side I sat, the south side. I think there were about eight of us gathered on the table. Everybody’s just silent. I put the boombox in middle of the table and I just turned it on and said, “This changes everything, guys. Let’s just listen for a while before we pray and think.” And we just listened in silence for a while. And then when we felt like there was enough news, we turned it off and prayed and just pled for the people, pled for everything that we could think to pray for, for our season. And then we looked at each other and said, “Okay, we have a flock. What do we do?”
Sarah Zylstra: What do we do? Pastors across America were asking the same question. How do you shepherd a church through something like 9/11? And how do you care for them in a post 9/11 world? The response of Christians across the country would change Brian and Christina’s life. We’ll dig into that and more in the next episode.
Heather Ferrell: Recorded is part of the Gospel Coalition Podcast Network. Its executive producer is Steven Morales, it’s produced and edited by Josh Diaz and me Heather Ferrell. Sound design by Josh Diaz and [Robbie Odetta], artwork by Gabriel Reyes. Our editor in chief is Collin Hanson. The Remembering 9/11 series was hosted and written by Sarah’s Zylstra. Special thanks to Diyala for the intro song and Andrew [Lopara] for assistance with production. You can find more podcasts from The Gospel Coalition at tgc.org/podcasts.