It’s hard to believe that’s it’s been fifteen years since two planes flew into the World Trade Center and our lives as Americans were changed forever. Our world is a different place since that day. Terrorism is something that we hear about all the time. We know it could happen anywhere, even on American soil.
As believers, we are safe in the protection that is promised to us; God will never leave or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) Yet we cannot grow complacent and take that for granted; thanking God for each new day and ensuring that we never forget September 11, 2001.
Resharing stories from that day will never get old. We spoke to a few faculty and staff members to see what they remember from the tragic day that shocked our nation.
“It was a beautiful morning and we didn’t know anything happened until we got a call from a parent who was in NYC very close to the World Trade Center. She called us hysterical saying she couldn’t find her husband she’s worried about her children. I was just shocked,” recalls Madeleine Gilmour, TCS Admin Assistant. “I had no idea. We got a small tv, put it on and saw the plane flying into the other building and it was like watching a movie you couldn’t believe it was real.”
“I remember exactly where I was standing, I was in room 66 the Biology Lab. Same room I’m teaching in now. It was in-between classes and I remember a student came in and said ‘Miss McKay, a plane just flew into the World Trade Center’,” says Laura McKay, HS Science Teacher. “I remember thinking, ‘What amateur pilot missed the World Trade Center and flew right into it?’ You just didn’t think terrorists. It was more likely that a pilot would lose his course. I still didn’t really have the full comprehension that it was a big airline plane. It wasn’t until later that I heard more and I think even at that point we prayed and I went on teaching for the next period. After that more word got out and we all realized this was big and all the details came out. It was incomprehensible.”
McKay, among others at Timothy, remembers crowding around any television she could find as the events we now know so well, unfolded before her eyes.
“As we were watching the tvs, we were praying. I remember kids being very upset and crying because their parents worked in the city or frequented the city. There was one girl who was hysterical. I was helping them to try to get a hold of their parents. A lot came to get their kids early. We were dealing with kids and their fears,” continues McKay.
“To see the second plane fly into the Trade Center was devastating really,” says TCS Athletic Director, Bill Bills. “When I came to school that day I saw the kids’ anguish.”
While everyone directly in the TCS community was safe that day, there were relatives of those in our community who lost their lives. There was also the reminder of the realness of the day, as we in New Jersey, are only a stone’s throw away from NYC.
“You just see plumes of smoke on the tv and you could even look in the sky here and see the plumes of smoke,” says Gilmour. “Things that seemed important a few moments before that happened didn’t seem important anymore.”
“It was a really solemn week. Kids and teachers alike, you just didn’t think something like that could happen in our country,” explains McKay.
TCS Security Officer, Marty Conte, was a New Jersey police officer at the time of 911. He spent 3 months off and on, helping directly at ground zero. The devastation he saw is difficult for many of us to even grasp.
“The thing I remember the most is people holding up signs of people asking us if we’ve seen those people. My church was sending Bibles and praying with the firemen and the workers and amazingly no one turned down prayer. We learned that the easiest thing to do was to listen to people.”
TCS Superintendent, Dr. Hubert Hartzler was Dean of the Graduate School at Baptist Bible College & Seminary in Pennsylvania at the time. His thoughts immediately turned to his good friends Martin and Gracia Burnhan who were captives of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the Philippine jungles since June 2001. Gracia will share her phenomenal story with the TCS community on Friday, April 22, 2017 at the TCS Spring Banquet.
Dr. Hartzler remembers coming to a stark realization that September morning.
“Satan is at an all-out war to take out Americans and Israel. He’s always had that intent. I realized we’re in the front lines now of this war with Satan,” says Dr. Hartzler.
Here’s something that may surprise some of you when you think about it…it’s likely none of our students remember that day. The oldest of them having been 2 to 3 years old in 2001. Yet unlike many of us, terrorism is something they have grown up hearing about.
“That’s shocking to me. It’s just a chapter in history book to our students. I think our kids have lived through more terrorism being in the news than I had experienced before 911,” explains McKay. “I do feel a burden to have them not forget and to understand where we are as Christians in the world and how blessed we are.”
Fifteen years later, and our world looks very different than it had before the morning of September 11, 2001. It’s clear to see that the thing’s the Lord speaks about in Revelation are starting to take shape.
“I think for the country as a whole, it was a wake-up call to be more aware of what’s going on around us. I would think we’ve learned a lot. I pray we’ve learned a lot,” says Conte.
As for our students, some of them will likely hear about 911 on Monday from Ms. McKay.
“I can use this as a teaching point; we never know what can happen and we have to be right with God.”
911 may not be a memory for our students, yet our prayer is that the history of that horrific day serves as a reminder to be prepared spiritually for the battle God’s Word says will intensify.