On Tuesday mornings, you can normally find me studying and working intently as I prepare for the coming Sunday’s message. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was busy writing when our secretary rang me and said, “An airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”
Immediately I turned the radio on and tuned into breaking news. Drawn into the coverage, I totally lost my focus and paused my preparation. When the plane hit the second tower, I suddenly sensed I needed to go home and be with my wife. I listened to the dreadful news as I drove, and when I arrived home, she had no idea what was happening.
I turned on the TV and said, “Our nation is being attacked.”
As our nation was being attacked, Jack Young, a former member of McDonough Road Baptist, was working on the 51st floor of Tower One. He shared his testimony in our morning worship on the 10th anniversary of the attack. He said then that moment was the last time he’d publicly share his story.
Young was working on a MetLife account for AT&T. After working late on Sept. 10, he and his team decided to arrive at 7 a.m. the next day.
One delay after another disrupted Young’s planning, and he finally arrived at 8:15 a.m. His crew waited for him before going to breakfast, and he told them, “Give me a few minutes. I need to power up my laptop and take a look at a few things.”
At 8:35 a.m., they came back in and said, “Jack, come on, we’re hungry.”
“Just a couple of more minutes.” It was 8:45 a.m.
From his desk, he could see Tower Two. Suddenly, there was a tremendous impact that was so strong Jack was suddenly moved from his desk to his co-worker’s desk eight feet away.
They immediately jumped up and said, “What was that?” An earthquake? In New York City? A worker’s propane tank explosion?
Adrenaline kicked in, and as they looked out the windows, Tower Two swayed out of sight and then back into sight. Then they realized that it wasn’t Tower Two that was swaying, but their building. They gathered their things and headed for the stairwell, still not realizing the severity of the horror unfolding.
Fifty-one flights of steps were really 102 because each floor had a flight of steps, a landing, and then another flight. The stairwell was already full of people evacuating the building.
As they got to floor 44, they heard, “Stay to your right! Stay to your right!” and they saw the first burn victim come down.
“She was a rather large lady, her arms were extremely burned, her face was burned, her hair was singed. You could hear her labored breathing. There are some sounds you never forget,” Jack said.
One flight later, again they heard, “Stay to your right,” and the second victim came down. A short man wearing a T-shirt was covered with soot.
“Arms burned, face burned, hair burned, and he reeked of jet fuel.”
Some smells you never forget.
“We were on floor 36 when the building rocked so much that we thought it was collapsing on top of us. It made our knees buckle.”
About that time, firefighters, policemen and EMTs started coming up the steps. Evacuees were saying, “God bless you. Be careful. Good luck.”
They finally reached the first floor and nothing could have prepared them for what they saw as they exited the building. Bodies and blood were everywhere. Debris covered the area. They kept walking and walking. They looked up and saw both towers on fire.
“We truly had not realized what we had gone through. It was amazing that we survived.”
Communication shut down, and it was 9 p.m. before Young could reach his parents. Sobbing into the phone, Young said, “Dad, I didn’t know how close I came.”
And that was one of Young’s major points as he shared that Sunday 10 years ago. None of us know the moment we’ll leave this earth and enter eternity. We must live every day as if it’s our last.
Are we ready to meet God?
Dr. David L. Chancey is a Milledgeville native and pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga. The church family meets at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them this Sunday for worship at 10 a.m. and Bible study at 11:10 a.m. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org to worship online. View more of Chancey’s writings at www.davidchancey.com and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.