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Hope From the Ashes of 9/11

Original Air Date 09/12/2011

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Survivors and others closely affected by the attacks of September 11, 2001, discuss their experiences on that fateful day and describe God's redemptive work since the tragedy.

Episode Transcript

Opening:

Clip:

Man Speaking on Fire Engine Radio: Toro Bravos responding to the World Trade Center.

B.J. Weber: Sirens and police and billowing smoke and confusion and a massive silence though, it was had overgrown the city. I mean no one talked to anyone. You could walk down the street and all you heard was sirens. And death was in the air.

End of Clip

John Fuller: That's B.J. Weber, president of New York Fellowship, reflecting about September 11th, 2001. And this Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and on this "Focus on the Family," we'll continue remembering that day, offering as well, some great encouragement and your host is Focus president, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, it's hard to believe that 15 years have gone by since those terrible attacks on our country. It was a very sad day as nearly 3,000 people died and there are memorials at all of the three sites where those people lost their lives. And we need to remember those families and to pray for them, because that pain never goes away.

Today we want to share some of the amazing ways that God has continued to work in the lives of these 9/11 survivors and how God has brought hope and healing to so many others as a result of that tragedy. This is going to be an inspiring message.

John: And we'll begin, Jim, with some comments from former President George W. Bush, as he recalled trying to comfort all of us here in this country in a speech delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. just three days after 9/11.

Body:

Clip:

President George W. Bush: And it was a hard speech to give because, you know, I was in a church pulpit. And it was in some ways, a war-like speech.

It was also a hard speech to give, 'cause the audience was in the audience was Mom and Dad and Laura [and] all former Presidents. And I remember looking out and seeing people weeping, particularly people in uniform. And I did all in my power to make sure that I myself didn't break down at the moment.

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth can separate us from God's love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own and may He always guide our country. God bless America.

End of Clip

John: New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Jay Jonas:

Clip:

Jay Jonas: The best in humankind was on display right then.

Juli Slattery: Uh-hm.

Jay: And you know, I think that's what God had in mind for us, is to be able to give of oneself without selfish reasons for not doing it.

End of Clip

John: Eddie Pinero, former police officer in New York City:

Clip:

Eddie Pinero: I just remember the most of all the precincts throughout the city were decorated with all kinds of drawings from kids from kindergarten and every age, just saying that we were heroes. But just their drawings (Emotion in Voice) really encouraged us to continue on, to say that we're heroes.

End of Clip:

John: Bishop Roderick Caesar:

Clip:

Bishop Roderick Caesar: Unfortunately, one of our members was in the towers when they collapsed. He could've escaped. He was on a lower floor. He could easily have left, but his wife suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease and he had compassion on those in the facility who were handicapped, who couldn't get out without assistance. And he was going back helping people out of the building.

And he had helped a few people out and when he went back to help another person, that's when the building went down. So, it was a tragic loss, but the Lord sustained the family and has sustained us as a congregation through that whole thing.

End of Clip

Clip:

Major George Polarek: I think anyone who worked at 9/11 could close their eyes, see 100 different people and have a story for every one of them. And most of the time, will all end up crying because of the miraculous kind of stuff that was happening there.

End of Clip

John: Major George Polarek of the Salvation Army, describes the scene at Trinity Church near Ground Zero, as hope began to rise from the ashes.

Clip:

Major George Polarek: Then in that evening, we pulled over a fire department hose and just a water truck. And we literally washed it down, the church. And grey ash was everywhere. It covered everything, people, buildings, everything.

But when the fire department washed down that church, the stained glass windows appeared. And it was the first color that anyone saw. And all of a sudden, everyone stopped working because we broke out in a worship service. I mean, people were praying in groups. Firemen were hugging firemen. People were crying in other arms and we had realized that God had once again, revealed Himself in a very dramatic way.

End of Clip

John: Lieutenant Jerry Sillcocks, president of Firefighters for Christ in New York City:

Clip:

Jerry Sillcocks: And the Lord was waking me up saying, I need to talk to these people. I need to minister to these people. And it was like, Firefighters for Christ has to do something down here. And a member of Firefighters for Christ that's retired called me the next day and said, "I'm on my way down to Ground Zero. I have a table and I'm gonna set up a prayer table." And he set up a table at Ground Zero within a day and it said "Prayer." And guys would walk up and pray and you just pray with 'em. And that's exactly what we did. We went down there on our days off. When we weren't down there digging with the fire department, we started going down there to just pray with firefighters.

End of Clip

John: Rick Camacho, founder Mission New York City:

Clip:

Rick Camacho: They would set up on the perimeters and they'd have these prayer stations. And they just basically would be available. People would walk up and ask for prayer. But I can pretty much assure you they'll be at least a dozen conversions, that people will ask to accept Jesus Christ as their praying with someone who's been sent by God to New York.

End of Clip

John: In the days after 9/11, people crowded into churches with hearts laid bare. In the years since, many have continued to seek answers to spiritual questions.

Clip:

Eddie Pinero: I have to say a lot of ministries have birthed out of this tragedy. It gave me a great opportunity to let people in my precinct [know]; they knew I was a Christian, you know. And they used to call me "Family Man." They used to call me "Reverend." And where it was a point where, you know, of course, they mocked and you know, they mocked you and they insult you and whatever. But when that time happened, that's when people started asking about God.

End of Clip

John: Fireman Robert Thomas:

Clip:

Robert Thomas: And it's taken you past this world. You know, I think everybody always considers this world everything. But now 9/11 happened and you had so many deaths. What happens on the other side? Where [are] the answers that you thought you had gonna take you when you actually face Him? Because it was a reality, even with all the churches, that you will one day meet Him, not only you, your family, your friends and what are you gonna do with that? I think that's where the conviction came in for those who actually turn[ed] their hearts to the Lord, realized there's more to life than what we experience now. There is a God.

End of Clip

Clip:

Man: Took this as an opportunity to harvest and to give people an opportunity to recognize the brevity of time and the importance of making wise and godly decisions. And in the course of the service, people received what I believe to be a real measure of comfort and encouragement and assurance. I did everything I could to open the door to a real relationship with Jesus Christ--not religion, but relationship. I didn't talk about membership in the church or anything. I talked about having a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ and how He gives us hope and peace in the midst of the calamities of life. So, people came to Christ and over the past decade, I can truly say that they've been followed up and many of them are still walking with the Lord as a result.

End of Clip:

Clip:

B.J. Weber: The day after 9/11, I went over to the firehouse and I said to them, "I am humiliated that I do not know your names. You have been to my home, put out a fire. You saved my daughter's live when she was 3. And I don't know any of your names and I am sorry. Will you forgive me? And can I help?"

And this huge relationship began to spring up. As things started to unfold and I started to see that Jesus was about friendship and intimacy and life and love and hope, these guys became much more open and a number of them came to Christ in a very beautiful, powerful way.

End of Clip

Clip:

Jerry: I think that Firefighters for Christ was actually literally set up by God for this time. We started our organization in 1998 in my dining room and started meetin' in 1999. And there is no mistake that God had put us in a position for just this. And the thousands that heard our stories because of the ability to be known as a Christian in the fire department, that was just God using this organization that He already put together years before 9/11. And there are stories for each one of us, that as going out and sharing the Gospel, seeing whole families come to know Jesus because of a time in our life that He allowed us to go through and being able to share His love through that.

Carlos: We had handed out Bibles prior to September 11th. There's no doubt in my mind that God was setting something up there prior to September 11th, preparing these individuals' hearts.

Mike: Finally went out to the firehouses with the Bibles, with testimony, with prayer and one of us [gave a ] salvation message and also an invitation to receive Christ. Even years later, guys come up to me and say, "Hey, I remember you."

Man: At the site of Ground Zero, we had all these peace officers' Bibles. I know of a supervisor who to this day, has that very same Bible that was given out at that time. And I don't know if he's a believer or not, but it's just amazing to see that, that particular Bible was given out that day and is still here on his desk and it's just awesome to see that. I believe personally, every police officer, every firefighter, every paramedic have heard the Gospel during that time of the recovery of 9/11, at Ground Zero.

End of Clip

John: There are other significant ways that God has touched New York City in the days since 9/11. Some churches have grown, some reporting tremendous growth. And there have been many new churches planted in the five boroughs of the city.

Clip:

B.J. Weber: There's a huge number of church plants taking place in New York City. I mean, there [are] people are coming to New York, but I think when you start to really think on terms of who is Jesus, that the thing that has changed more drastically that I've seen in ministries [is] that people are much more interested in relationships, in discussions and how to appropriate faith, not so much in a religious spirit, but rather how is Jesus real for me today? And I think that's changed. I've seen a lot more of that desire in people's lives and much more openness in that regard.

End of Clip

John: Responding to the great spiritual needs, Drew Segawa on staff at a Bible college in California, was moved to relocate.

Clip:

Drew Segawa: My desire to start this church plant came out of this burden that God had given me for the people of New York City. And God had us land in Queens. My first apartment, it was basically a one-car garage. And that's where, of course, the call of God is really tested. And that's where a lot of my testing was, where God strips me of everything really. [I] came out here. Didn't really know very many people at all, but just kinda like Elijah, "Get up and go." (Chuckling) And sleeping on the ground. It's just the thing that God had put on my heart, that if this is what You want me to do, God, then I came here with my calling, with faith and a Bible.

End of Clip

John: Eddie Panero began a storefront church in Harlem and now pastor a church in Pennsylvania.

Clip:

Eddie Panero: My ministry really started from 9/11 and so, I was like ministering 24/7 and constantly ministering, to sharing and I never went back to just thinkin' about myself and living for myself.

End of Clip

John: Mission New York City has brought tens of thousands of people to the Big Apple on short-term missions trips since 9/11. Here's Rick Camacho.

Clip:

Rick Camacho: Well, God created such a tremendous outpouring of HIs love to create 2,000 more churches, to create a little ministry like what I'm doing. And I'm not the only one; there's plenty of other ministries that came out of those ashes and churches and lives that were changed and people walking in faith and people who didn't know God before 9/11 and now run ministries for small churches and big churches. So, from my perspective, you know, God was victorious out of the tragedy of 9/11.

End of Clip

Clip:
 
Jerry: We go down to Ground Zero every year and do a Bible outreach in our uniform. And this year, two people gave their life to Christ right at our table. So, we still go back down there and do that, because we know God's given us an opportunity to share with just the general public down there.

End of Clip

John: Now 15 years later after 9/11, survivors and others deeply affected by the events of that day offer reflections as they look back and remember, but also look ahead. Pastor Tom Joyce was serving at the Pentagon on that day.

Clip:

Pastor Tom Joyce: My oldest son and he was a junior in high school at the time and I got home that night and he was waiting for me on 9/11. I had to bring some bad news to a family in our church, that their father and husband had been killed--an Army officer in the Pentagon.

But I got home that night, emotionally, physically drained from the events of the day. My son was waiting for me and when I walked into the living room, he came over and kind of threw his arms around me and said, "Dad, I'm so thankful God spared your life at the Pentagon." It was just a good father-son moment. He was just really just tellin' me how much he was thankful that God had spared my life. He said, "Dad, I don't know what I would do without you."

And then he just dropped his arms and took a couple steps back and he kinda was looking at me up and down. I could see some words were coming to his mouth, but he couldn't get 'em out. Then he looked at me and said, "Dad, for some reason, God spared your life today at the Pentagon. I don't understand it, but," he said, "Dad, let me ask you a question. What are you gonna do with the rest of your life?" Then he left me standin' there. He went up to bed. I could hardly move.

You know, that day, you know, 19 terrorists and hijackers had planned for months, maybe years, millions of dollars to come and try to kill people like me. I had friends that had died. I had seen some tragic things. But the thing that kept me awake all night was my son's question. That's what I thought about all night. "Dad, what you gonna do with the rest of your life?"

And again, what man meant for evil, I believe that God meant for good. And that was a real catalyst for me to think, "What's next, post military for me?" And the only thing I could figure that God wanted me to do was be in full-time ministry serving Him, bringin' the Good News of the Gospel. So to answer my son's question, this is what I'm doin' with the rest of my life, serving Him.

End of Clip

John: Pastor Jose Rivera:

Clip:

Jose Rivera: At the time, you could see an openness to spirituality at 9/11. It was an amazing move of God's Spirit, even among non-believers. But as the years have gone by, as with everything and I guess the Bible attests to it, you know, that people seem to forget. And I think that's why we're so often reminded in the Scriptures to remember.

End of Clip

Clip:

Jerry: The emotion is you know, just as it was right after. I think, you know, they say time heals wounds, but it's pretty difficult.

End of Clip

Clip:

Carlos: Here you have somebody that, like I said, you know, they've gone through some school, so that makes them an expert. And they're gonna diagnose you to tell you whether you're okay or not.

End of Clip

Clip:

Bob: Maybe 95 percent, if not more of the country, really have no idea what it's like, they've gone through an event like 9/11, but Christ and what His Son has done in giving His life for us, there's no comparison. And you're able to be free, to be able to say emotionally what you're feeling, with the intent of helping someone else identify the source of your strength which is Him. There's no one that could've gone through the Cross and been isolated, like He was, rejected by His very own and even the Father, Himself and still serve Him to the degree that He looks out for others. You begin to recognize, there's nothing of value, nothing at all that can compare to the value that's found in Christ. And every answer that we have, that He's given us is from experience. It's real and it's true and it's available to you. And that message come[s] out so clear in everything you say and everything you do.

End of Clip

John: Army Sergeant, Chris Braman, survivor and rescuer at the Pentagon.

Clip:

Chris Braman: Well, God taught me, I was humbled mentally, physically and spiritually humbled from 9/11. I had so much death on my hands, that it changed me. I no longer looked at somebody as bein' different. I look at 'em as being God's children. So, my faith has increased over the years since 9/11 and I'm able to go out and talk about God in public high schools, college universities. And every day I go out to do this, I ask the Lord, "Lord, I dedicate this to You and just let 'em know that You were there that day." And I just get out there and talk and God's there, you know, in the communications. So, every day my faith is strengthened, my whole way of logic and the way of thinking. My most important thing in life now is family. You know, family is my focal point and everything else is secondary.

End of Clip

John: Pastor Lawrence Saunders:

Clip:

Lawrence Saunders: One of the sisters at the church, her husband was in the Trade Center. And her testimony was that, the morning, that Tuesday morning, she said her husband and her had an argument. And she remembered as he walked out from work, she didn't even speak to him and then he never came home. So, it hit me and it just started to thinking about my relationships with people, my relationships with my family. And it kinda made me to just draw closer to my family, to really cherish the moment, cherish the times.

End of Clip

Clip:

Jay Jonas: You have no guarantees. You know, and you know, everything you have can be taken away at a moment's notice. So, you really savor what's good in your life and appreciate it.

End of Clip

John: Captain Carlos Vasquez of the New York Fire Department:

Clip:

Carlos Vasquez: I trust in God's promises and you know, I know that there's no other person that can give you that hope of eternal life. But God gives us free will to accept or to reject and to do things good and evil. And these are choices that we make. But the choice that we need to make is to turn to the Lord, because the Lord through Him, there's salvation found in no other.

End of Clip

Clip:

Bob: I think it gives you also a kind of like a quiet confidence, you know, knowing that He can take you through it. You know, that whatever is considered in American history, so especially modern history, it's probably the worst event that ever happened in the United States. And yet, God proved Himself to be real. God allowed you to be able to say as a Christian, what I believed before 9/11 is just solidified after 9/11, that the power of God and His ability to be able to keep you and all the truths that rest in His Word are true, forever true. And anything that you're gonna experience afterwards is just another experience in His ability to be able to prove to you that His grace is enough to take you through it. And even in death if that's what He's gonna allow to happen, you're His and you're protected even then.

End of Clip

Clip:

Bishop Caesar: I tell people, when the situation becomes impossible and you know there's no way out, it's simply a setup for a miracle. I believe that's when God will step in and perform the miracle of divine intervention. But if it comes to the point of a perishing situation, leave here with a testimony. Let it be said that the last words from your mouth were, "I will bless the Lord at all times. But God nonetheless is good, because I'm absent from the body; I'm present with the Lord." And if He allows it to happen, it's for His glory, 'cause the Bible says, "All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose." So, if I love Him and I'm the called according to His purpose, there's a reason why He has allowed the process to unfold in my life as it has. And it is not for me to accuse Him of being unfair or anything else, but it's just to trust Him.

End of Clip

Clip:

Tom Joyce: We were leaving the building, making our exit and we were going by the impacted point. We could not get to the people because the fire was so intense, again burning at about 1,500 degrees or so. But we could hear them yelling, you know. And first responders and those that could get to them, were getting to 'em, but you could hear them yelling. They were saying, "Would somebody help me? Would somebody show me the way? Will somebody ..." they were using this word, "save me."

And I'm thinking, nothing's changed. Sure, there's not a fire still in the Pentagon, but people all around this world are yelling, "Will somebody help me? Will somebody show me the way? Will somebody ..." they're using this word. "Will somebody save me?" And so, we have a high calling as believers in Jesus Christ to respond to those people who are in need, great need of Him. The need is there every day.

End of Clip

Clip:

Pastor Lawrence Saunders: My message of hope to people is that, they have a relationship with Jesus Christ, because the Bible says, He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." And I believe that He is the only way that man can really overcome the complexities of life, the situations of life and the tragedies of life. 'Cause even though 9/11 has passed, still some people have not been healed yet. People still have open wounds. And there's a Scripture that talks about, "Is there a balm in Gilead?" Yes, Jesus Christ is the healin' ointment that, if He's applied to the wounds of life, He can still heal. He can still mend that which is broken and there is hope in Jesus. So, that's my message today, that there is hope in Jesus Christ.

End of Clip

Clip:

Pastor Tom Joyce: The message of 9/11, I believe is that, well, what man meant for evil, I believe God continues to use for good. While I don't think this was at all orchestrated by God, I believe that God has used the events of 9/11 to wake up America and to wake many people up and realize that, you know, on the morning of 9/11/2001, aside from those 19 terrorists, not a single person, either in New York, on any of those airliners or here in Washington, D.C., woke up that morning and said, "Well, today's my last day on earth." Yet thousands perished.

I'll always challenge people. I said, "Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt, if you were to die today, if today was your 9/11, where you'd spend eternity?" That Jesus already has prepared a way for you by just accepting Him. And we've seen great harvest from just that story and that challenge for many people all across the country.

End of Clip

Clip:

Sheila: I do believe if no other reason than, I believe that the Lord spared me to tell the story, that despite the disaster, despite the evil that was in the hearts of men, God is still in control. He's still on the Throne. There was nothing that happened on September 11th that caught Him unaware. And it's not about me. It's about letting people know that there's power in the name of Jesus and despite your situation, regardless of whether you find yourself trapped in a burning building or whether you're trapped by anything else of your making or not of your making, there is power in the name of Jesus. And you can call on Him anytime, anywhere, in whatever situation you're in. And He is faithful to answer that call.

End of Clip

Closing:

John: This is "Focus on the Family" and that's Pentagon survivor, Sheila Moody, who narrowly escaped with her life on September 11th. You've been listening to survivors of 9/11 and others who offered hope out of the ashes, sharing their poignant thoughts now 15 years later.

Jim: John, these people have been through incredibly painful experiences and have just given us a reason for the hope that lies within them. In matters of life and death, like 9/11, you can either turn to God for peace and comfort, turn your back on Him or try to suppress it and just not think about it. Those are really the three responses.

These people have pointed us to the things that really matter and matter most--our relationship with God and our relationships with our families. We've heard a clarion call to believe in Jesus Christ. And I just want to offer that invitation to you and if you don't know Him, this is the most critical question you can answer.

We don't know when our 9/11 might come. The Bible says, "Today is the day of salvation." And if you don't have that assurance where you'll spend eternity, we would love to point you in the direction of God. And we would count it a privilege to do so. And I hope, I hope you will take it seriously enough what these people have expressed about eternity and facing death, that you'll call us today. Don't put it off.

John: And that number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And we'd be happy to pray with you and also to send the complimentary booklet, "Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God's Family." It explains what the Christian life is all about. Now that booklet can also be viewed at our website, where you can request a CD or download of this broadcast, which has additional content from Sheila Moody. It's all at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.

And when you support the ministry generously, we'll send that CD to you as our way of saying thanks. Our program was provided by Focus on the Family. Join us again on Monday, when once again, with Jim Daly, we'll help you and your family thrive.

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