9-11, A Day in Infamy, Pt. 1 – A Unique Mission Field

     From 1997 to 2004, my husband and I had the privilege of serving on the most unique mission field in the world. Where else but the United Nations could one have the potential to minister to leaders from 192 countries? The bonus: they’re all in one place and the diplomats all speak English. Sounds like a modern-day miracle, doesn’t it?

We had completed our three year assignment in Siberia and were heading home. What did God have in store for us? Considering our age, a long term commitment overseas wasn’t an option. But then we were asked to join the staff of Christian Embassy. CE is a Campus Crusade ministry to diplomats and their spouses at the United Nations. It was a God-given fit for us.

As we’ve experienced numerous times before-when God calls, He delivers. He not only gave us the desire to move to NYC. Through faithful supporters, He provided the means for us to live there for seven years.

I now invite you to step back in time with me to that day in infamy, September 11, 2001.

* * * *

  It’s a glorious day in Manhattan. Not a cloud in the robin’s egg blue sky. Jay and I leave our apartment on 41st. Street for a short walk to the United Nations. Today is the opening of the 56th Session of the UN General Assembly.

It’s an especially exciting day for us. Christian Embassy and two other ministries are hosting the Sixteenth Annual International Prayer Breakfast. Every September, the prayer breakfast serves as a catalyst for our ministry at the UN.

   A cool breeze dances among the 192 flags in front of the U.N. headquarters. We walk across the mall past a bronze gun with a twisted barrel.                  


Unaware of its macabre significance, we make our way through security and up to the Delegate’s Dining Room.        

8:30: The delegates arrive and sign the guest books. The sound of upbeat chatter prevails as everyone is seated for breakfast. The pleasant atmosphere takes on an air  expectancy.  

8:45: Ambassadors from Latvia and Malawi welcome the guests and pray for God’s blessings on the event and each person assembled.

8:45: (American Airlines, Flight 11 carrying 92 people, crashes into the World Trade Center’s North Tower.) A security guard stands next to Jay in the back of the room. He quietly informs him of what is assumed to be a horrible accident. They decide not to interrupt the program.

9:00: His Excellency Dr. Seung-Soo Han offers comments on mankind’s need for spiritual significance as an essential structure for moral striving.

9:03: (United Airlines Flight 175 hits the South Tower.) Cell phones go off around the Delegate’s Dining Room. Miraculously, no one moves, whispers or gets up to leave. Approximately 200 diplomats remain surprisingly attentive. Ambassador Miss June Yvonne Clarke reads from Luke 10, the story of the Good Samaritan. Ambassador Dr. Lamuel Stanislaus reads Psalm 19 on the Governance of God. Soloist, Sookyung Ahn sings The Lord’s Prayer.

9:43: (American Airlines, Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon in Washington.)

9:45: Dr. Viroslav Volf finishes his remarks entitled “From Exclusion to Embrace: Reflections on Reconciliation.” His emphasis: reconciliation with God through the cross.

Miss Ahn sings, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. . . .”

9:58: Tower #1 collapses, killing among many others, hundreds of rescue workers in the building.

10:00: The Prayer Breakfast concludes and all present are quietly told of the situation and asked to evacuate the building for our own safety.

Jay leaves with the speaker to find him a ride out of the city. I try to shake the discomfort I feel with our being separated. As the rest of us leave the building, we look south toward the towers. Angry clouds of smoke billow upward away from the carnage below. An acrid odor replaces the scent of autumn in the air. Someone expresses the surrealism of the moment. It’s as if we’re caught in a bizarre Hollywood production.

Confusion and chaos reign in Manhattan. God, what’s happening? Where do we go? What do we do?

* * * *

(Join me on Sunday for 9-11, A Day in Infamy – Part Two, Aching Hearts and Helping Hands.)

In closing, I think back to that day and I’m reminded of a song I recently heard. The chorus of The Prayer seems appropriate not only for then, but for us today.

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.            


(Remember to check the Crumbs section for scriptures on hope, courage and faith. You’ll also find nine requisites for a contented life.)

4 Responses to “9-11, A Day in Infamy, Pt. 1 – A Unique Mission Field”
  1. Nora B. says:

    Dear Beth, Lord so used you today for me especially. The fires have scared everyone in central Texas over and over, day after day, minute after minute. A pattern is being repeated over and over. First we find out one friend or family member is unsafe, must evalcuate, could loss their homes, their pets, are not being allowed even to go home from the grocery store and get the small pile of treasures left by the door “just in case”–it happens that fast. Then we leap for joy because all is well!! That precious person is past the worst! We cry from the joy of it! THEN, in the next minute another neighborhood is threatened–another friend at risk. Another darling old priceless little village nestled in the hill country is filled with smoke. If I did not know that Jesus God was hovering close—that HE is over and over answering prayers–OVER AND OVER! Not one person that my bible study has specifically covered in prayer has thus far lost anything. Their homes surrounded by scorched earth. But they are covered, not by rain or even a drop of water–there is no way to bring much water to these fires–there is not much water to use –but covered rather by the mercy of our father God. So, His grace continues in the troubles of this world. Sorry for the length but though our troubles are nowhere near the day of 9/11, the imagine of people helpless in themselves…so familiar. Thank you Beth for lifting me up–reminding of those precious passages.

    • Thanks for your comments. As I read them, I feel your pain. That is, as much as anyone can who is so far removed. This morning, I watched the devastating news coming from Texas. Of course, a big part of hearts are there, not only because we lived there for seven years. But because our precious daughter Mary Beth is there. We pray for all of you, for your families, property, and especially for rain!


  2. Ann Coogler says:

    When I walked outdoors this morning I thought,’…on just such a day as this the unthinkable happened. The skies were cornflower blue, the mellow days of autumn stretched ahead. Liz, I think I remember you saying that you and Jay lived in NYC for awhile, but I had forgotten. Even though all Americans were touched, I am sure there was a special horror reserved for those of you so near it. This past year I have suffered great loss because of Bill’s death. I feel the pain of those who still grieve and have learned that a broken heart still beats. Thank you for your writing. Ann

    • Thanks my friend, for your tender words. I know you feel the pain of loss much more than some of us. It will not go wasted. You have a gift with words and God will use them to comfort and to heal.


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