Like the rest of those working in Manhattan Sept. 11, the staff of the New York Baptist Association watched the unfolding horror at the World Trade Center both on television and outside their windows.
"It's a war zone," said director of missions David Dean, who with most of his staff stayed at their upper-west-side Manhattan offices throughout the first night and following day.
Dean was among several Southern Baptist leaders who described the scene in the city as well as ministry efforts set in motion the day of the attack.
Attempts to contact all of the association's churches had met with limited success, but Dean knew of at least two congregations with a total of five members still missing a day after the attack. Association staff members, meanwhile, and all North American Mission Board missionaries in the city were safe.
Coordinated ministry efforts within the association were impossible in the immediate aftermath, as churches simply waited and did what they could where they were — joining the rest of the city in shock and disbelief.
"There's a mass depression that has swept through the city. It's palpable," Dean reported at the time. "And I know there's a lot of anger, and people are frustrated."
The association initially opened up its chapel to offer comfort to the traumatized but eventually moved their ministry to the streets — offering cold water, Bibles, and other refreshments to those passing by.
Dean said he also spent much of the day just talking with police officers, firefighters, even people from other offices, listening and helping console the grief that swept the city.
"I've talked with a lot of individuals, staff people. People are wanting to talk about it," he said. "We've been jolted deeply, and I think there's an openness that comes out of that."
Lisa Chilton, volunteer coordinator for metro New York who works out of the association office, described the encounters with people who had walked the ninety blocks from the World Trade Center — some in business suits and high heels.
"People stopped in and prayed. They were confused and stunned....People were amazed at the kindness we showed to them just through a cup of water."
She added, "I'm seeing a lot of New Yorkers who are usually full of confidence and assertiveness feeling stunned and helpless. Everybody has been affected."
She said the association staff had been praying for revival in the city among both Christians and unbelievers. "We are praying that God will use this opportunity to draw people back to Him in a very intimate way. Our focus is to reflect God in a tangible way to people in these next few weeks."
Ken Welborn, a NAMB missionary to the United Nations community, observed, "People all over the world were shocked and dismayed" at the attack on "great symbols of our nation. It's a shock to us and a shock to the world."
Welborn said he believes the World Trade Center was symbolic of a false sense of security that many have placed in our nation's economic system. "It was a symbol of our economic strength, and in one day it has crumbled," Welborn said. "My hope is that this will lead people to seek real security in Jesus Christ."
Ministering To Pentagon Emergency Workers
A team of thirty-two Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from western North Carolina was among the first to respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, setting up a feeding kitchen in the southern parking lot of the Pentagon the following morning for emergency workers and others affected by the crisis.
Skip Green, Disaster Relief director for North Carolina, said their Region 7 unit began setting up about 9 a.m. Sept. 12 in Washington, D.C., and planned to serve 8,000 hot meals that evening.
"Our purpose in being here is to work alongside the American Red Cross, and in this situation also the Salvation Army, to serve meals to people working here twenty-four hours a day," he said.
The unit was located about 300 yards from the Pentagon, he said, in sight of the catastrophic damage on the western wall.
Jim Burton and Martin King contributed to this report.