Living Stones Series: First Published in All Around Old Bridge Publication – September 2021
By Pastor Lloyd Pulley
On the morning of September 11, 2001, tragedy struck as the reality of terrorism pierced through the fragile and proud belief system that America was safe from enemy attack. At 8:46am, the World Trade Center’s North Tower was hit by a hijacked plane, and 17 minutes later the South Tower was hit by another one.
Jeremiah was a prophet of God to the nation of Israel, and in his day the nation was wondering how God could ever discipline them. The prophet had pronounced judgment and doom upon the people, warning them of an invading army, and yet they scoffed and mocked in disbelief. But that’s exactly what happened - God used Babylon, a bitter, hasty, and cruel nation, to chasten His people.
Twenty years have passed since we woke up to this world-changing event. The day is one forever etched in my mind as I recall gathering for our church staff meeting, receiving the call, and turning on the TV just as the second plane struck. I can recall saying to all who were there: "Today our ministry has changed. No more business as usual." We pooled all of our resources and focused all our efforts on ministering to the hurting, both within and without the church.
I was with a former Israeli Army Captain, Amir Tsarfati, later that same day to appear on a previously arranged talk show discussing terrorism. En route it was surreal seeing the smoke floating away from the site of the attack and I commented, "There goes the remains of a thousand souls." By Thursday, two days later, we had made our way to Ground Zero. It was a gray, smoldering cemetery. Brave first responders digging through the rubble were limited by the intense heat. Quickly we realized the real ministry was with the displaced, south-Manhattan masses who were now wandering around Union Square Park. Along with those who had erected memorials commemorating their loss, were those who had actually survived the destruction.
We ministered to tens of thousands mourning in Union Square, having lost a loved one or knowing someone who had died. We listened to countless accounts of people's firsthand experiences while bringing encouragement from the Bible. The gospel was well received when it came from a tender heart willing to listen to the broken hearts sharing their stories. Thousands responded to the gospel in those ensuing weeks.
The next week we coordinated a major memorial at PNC Arts Center in New Jersey. Many of those who had lost loved ones in the attack attended. Lisa Beamer, the wife of the man who organized to bring down the plane in Pennsylvania, was there and a young Chris Bracca, who shared of his dad’s evangelizing his co-workers and calling to say goodbye, trapped in the top of Tower One. A young NYU student, Andy Deane, shared how he was a block away when the second tower fell and was dramatically used to assist in the rescue of many trapped in the smoke and debris. He eventually became a youth leader, later a Bible School Director, and now a pastor.
Years ago, Calvary Magazine did a feature on the Christian response to 9/11. In this article I was quoted as saying, "Many times as believers we feel beaten down in our witness, we are worried about what people think of us, and we feel weak. Now, we understand far better who we are in Christ. We have authority to share the Gospel, and that has clarified the role of our church."
But do many still understand now, twenty years later?
That hedge of protection God lifted momentarily would have hopefully caused us to take an honest look at ourselves. There was a national cry for a short moment, but it was largely not unto God. We had an opportune time to reevaluate our lives and get right with Him, looking for His mercy and truth. Instead our mourning was quickly deflected into seeking revenge.
How far have we have drifted from God as a nation since September 11, 2001?
What once looked like a pivotal moment of turning back to God has actually revealed how far we have gone in the opposite direction.
"They sow the wind," the prophet Hosea expressed, "and reap the whirlwind." (Hosea 8:7) In the last twenty years we have seen a steep moral decline among the populace, as well as among leaders—both in the church and in the secular world. Many in the church have not modeled a life transformed by God, but rather have compromised with the culture, not boldly speaking the truth in love.
Perhaps God is warning us again, turning up the heat to lead us to repentance. Perhaps His kindness in withholding absolute judgment will lead us to repent. In the past God allowed locusts to invade, getting His people’s attention so that judgment would be averted. Instead of locusts, we have seen an invasion of the coronavirus, political tension, racial issues, LGBTQ+ identity confusion and indoctrination, and unprecedented natural disasters. These painful times are forerunners to the final trumpet, calling all everywhere to "repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins."