A day that changed America; we will always remember.
As you know, we sent a email on September 11th asking for your prayers as we asked God to give us His heart and mind in how He would have us respond to the WTC disaster, I would like to now in some measure report some of what God has done, I can not divulge all details due to the nature of the efforts we were involved in. I'm sure many of you have received many emails concerning this tragedy, but knowing most of you are either friends, intercessors, former SLM teams, or those who have inquired of SLM, I wanted to give you a firsthand report.
After making calls to all I could think of on Tuesday afternoon & evening, to get our S-Van into the city, the most helpless feelings I've had were upon me, so continuing in prayer, we prepared for Wednesday and trusted that God would open the tunnels/bridges to allow us access to Manhattan. Around 11:30 am the report came that the Queens Midtown Tunnel would reopen by 12 PM. So off we were, asking God to lead us fully by His Spirit. We went to the Chelsea Piers, where all the new found volunteers were gathered to receive the outpouring of food, clothes, etc., as well as the place where the police/firemen were to rest and get help. We stayed at the front of the line where we could feed, from the S-Van, all those who desired, and took by tray, drinks, soup, and snacks into the main rooms to the workers. We were well received and thanked often. By 5:30 PM they could not take any more goods. The place was so full so we prepared to leave, though I felt (as I had all day) that I want to be at Ground Zero, or as close as we could get. So after some inquiries from our City's Finest, we prayed and asked God to get us as far as possible to serve the men in the trenches.
14th st. was the cutoff zone, so off we went. At 7th Ave we asked to go further. We waited and prayed as I shared our desire with the police. After 15 Minutes he said "3 blocks is all I can get you" so off we went. After 3, we made a quick turn or two, and wound up in front of St. Vincent hospital, where all the initial victims and firemen/police came. All cameras and news folk were there, so we made the turn and kept heading south a few more blocks... another blockade. I asked again they said, "Go for it." A few more and at the last blockade, the officer said, "Well you made it this far, go on in." So we stopped, parked and looked for respirator masks. We put some drinks and soup on trays, and went out into the midst of so much smoke. Very few were there, so we asked and were told that at City Hall were lots of guys resting and recuperating, so off we went a few blocks more. For the next 4 hours we served police, firemen, etc., with food, drink and prayers. Many there that night was lovers of Jesus and we had an incredible time. We were asked to return the next day by many, including a Sergeant who practically demanded us to come back! PTL what a God we serve!
Thursday came and back we went to the corner of Chambers/Broadway at City Hall, where we served from 9 AM till 10 PM. It rained heavy which brought more guys to the S-Van than ever, having heard about the coffee and hot homemade soup. Many were being prayed with and shared with, as well as listening to their heartfelt needs. A pastor friend and I started going into Ground Zero (3 blocks away) and ministered, prayer walked, worked the Bucket Line, triage center, etc. looking for ways to bring the love of Christ. This we did most of Thursday & Friday. What open doors these were for Jesus.
On Saturday we had hoped to get back to City Hall, though my heart's desire was to be right on Church Street at Ground Zero and I had asked God to do just that. As we headed into that area, we were told "NO! City Hall area is now closed off." We drove on and were told "no" three more times at different check points with the Military being on board now. As we were looking for a new way, a pounding came on the S-Van door, and an officer asked us where we are going. I told him that I had hoped to get into City Hall. He said "Great, give me a ride!" So with our new friend we whisked through the next bunch of check points and as we approached the corner I said, "I'm going to go straight into Ground Zero." It was a God-word. We dropped him off, went through the check point and incredibly found ourselves on the corner of Church & Fulton Street- right on Ground Zero (across from the Millennium Hilton). WOW!!!!!
We set up and started serving. 2 hours later the sirens started to blare (due to shattering glass and lots of wind on the Millennium Hilton, which they thought would fall) and everyone ran for blocks. When we all returned a Sergeant said to me, "You know it’s not safe for your S-Van to park there anymore." I silently prayed, "God keep us here, no matter what." I then asked, "So where do you want me?" He looks around and says, "I like that spot for you." and he points to a space right on Church Street on the corner (first in line). GOD YOU'RE TOO AMAZING!
So with lots of help from the guys and our staff, we moved to our new location and again started to serve, share and pray with so many from the military, firemen, police, rescue workers, Verizon, Con Ed - everyone was there. I felt at that point, that we are here and we need to stay put, so we began our 24/7 shifts. We then set up a Prayer Station and a counseling area, where we had teams of "trauma counselors" and volunteers from Colorado, West Virginia, Texas, Ohio and Arkansas. We continued this way for 2 weeks and every day it was major miracle to even get into the site with our workers and supplies. We served the Salvation Army when they had no help. We served in every way possible: cleaning, sorting through donated goods, sharing ice, food and drinks. For all of us, it was an incredible witness for the Lord, which we were told daily by everyone there.
One incredible thing was, after a number of days (I lost track after 4 nights with only 2 hours sleep) we had asked God for even more creative ways to minister, and a friend Doctor Betsy sent 1000 "Badges of Honor" which went like gold. We gave all of them out in 1 day, praying over each person who received one. I asked for 2000 more, which came the next day. It was a God thing. Men and women were lining up for prayer and their badge of honor. In a few days 3000 were given out, with people coming for 2 more days to request more, which we did not have. We were also able to give out 1000's of the IBS and ABS booklets on the WTC disaster and Gospels of John. The first night we had them, a few of us walked over to the area where the firemen were eating and gave out 12 or so to feel it out. Everyone there said they wanted one too, so off we went to get a whole case (600) and went back and gave them all out in 15 minutes. It was something to see each one of them read immediately the story of the WTC Crisis with the recent pictures and a simple Gospel message. It was a scene I and others will never forget.
Also that night, a film crew was approaching and sure enough, Mike Wallace and NYC Police Commissioner Carrick were looking at the Prayer Station, and Mr. Wallace asked, "What is this Prayer Station?" So I rushed in and as cameras and microphones were put in my face I began to explain why we were there and what we were doing and proceeded to share Jesus with them both! Mr. Wallace was visibly moved by this event. (Pray for him!) Others came by in these days as well: Cal Thomas, Senator Schumer (who remarked, "this is what needs to be here!"), Congressmen and even IMUS! What a testimony to Jesus in the middle of all this to see the SLM S-Van, Trauma Counseling and Prayer Station with the grace of God so present! AMEN!
There is so much more I would like to say, but I am so drained in every way. We had to leave Ground Zero Wednesday (9/26) night. Security was made even tighter, new badges had to be acquired, and though we begged the Salvation Army to let our ministry serve with them, they declined. So even as we had asked God to have us stay as long as He desired and be effective, our time for now at Ground Zero is done, but the 1000's of men and women from all over this country are not. The seeds are sown. Many came to Jesus during these 2 weeks, being in a place, where by all rights, SLM had no place being - except for GOD!!!!!!
Now we recuperate, re-plan, and get ready for the next phase. I did the Red Cross training and am now certified as a Chaplain, which gives me access to those in the families, police, firemen, who lost loved ones, or those who desire any help. Today we have 12 more trauma specialists who will do the RC training. We also don't want to forget those we minister to weekly, so we press on to serve Him with all our might. I also believe, through all this, that God is adding to the vision He has already entrusted us with and that, is DISASTER RELIEF. I knew so little about this before, but now would be better prepared for the next one when it comes.
Thanks so much for your time in reading this short account of SLM's time at Ground Zero.
Again we thank you all and shall believe God to be glorified in all we do and bring triumph out of this tragedy.
For the King and Kingdom,
David Van Fleet & SLM Team
Just like everybody knows where they were when Kennedy was shot, everybody in New York knows where they were when the planes hit. Tuesday September 11th 2001 will for always be a day of remembrance for us. We heard the news about the first plane, then the second hit - from that moment we were glued to the television. Our subways were shut down, the bridges and tunnels to Manhattan were closed off, the phone lines shut down. We witnessed people jumping off the twin towers and then the collapse. We heard about eight planes being hijacked and we only knew the whereabouts of four that landed. Many people in New York were afraid every time they heard a plane because of the four missing planes. People in the streets were talking to each other, telling of their fears and shock.
One of the strongest feeling we felt as a Ministry was the feeling of inadequacy. We needed to do something. We needed to bring love and hope to all the suffering people. We wanted to represent the heart of God in this time of despair. As we woke up Wednesday morning, we were all watching the news to see when they would open up a bridge or tunnel so we could get in. At 11:30 a.m we headed for Manhattan in the Mobile Resource Center. There was an opening. We were stopped by the police twice before we even reached Manhattan. The first hours, we were situated at the volunteer center. We handed out food and drinks to all the volunteers, but we all had a desire to go further into the disaster perimeter. At 7 p.m. that night we drove up to the police check point. We told them that we had hot soup and coffee for the workers in there. They opened up the gate and we drove to within four blocks from Ground Zero near City Hall. There were a lot of police officers standing guard in front of the different buildings in the area. They were hungry and hurting. We had some wonderful hours of feeding them and ministering to them.
Thursday and Friday we placed the van in the same area. A lot of the rescue-workers came by the van as they were changing shifts. We were so close to everything that even the media was not allowed to come as close as we were. WE REALLY BELIEVE GOD SHOWED US FAVOR. The barricades should have been closed, also for us, but God wanted us there so we could minister to all the hurting rescue-workers. A smile was often enough to make a difference in their day. We have had so many people tell us that the smile we gave them was the first they had seen all day.
Saturday morning they had opened up the area for pedestrians, and we wanted to minister to the rescue-workers. Again, God got us in. A policeman jumped in our van and guided us through some of the barricades and we were placed at Ground Zero. With the van parked in front of World Trade Center building 5, we have been able to bring the love and life of God to hundreds of rescue-workers, firefighters, policemen, construction workers, national guards, Con Edison people, Metro-people, Verizon workers. We could witness with our own eyes the destruction and pain. At this time, we decided to keep the van there and instead rotate our volunteers night and day - bringing in fresh soup, coffee, and bread. We also got more volunteers come in to help us. Several teams from all over America connected to International Health Services Foundation came with their trauma-counselors.
It is really hard to explain what we have experienced. Pictures can only say so much. We have seen the mountains of debris - twisted metal, cement, dust - lots of dust from the debris, glass, papers, etc. We see and smell the smoke that is still coming up from the mountains because of the fires still burning. We see the groups of firefighters marching in to look for survivors and bodies - they are so determined and focused as they are on their way in. When they come back out, they are dirty, tired, hungry and depressed. They are losing hope. Most of them are traumatized from what they experience. They have lost their friends, and they want to find them.
That is when we see God move. We experience the presence of the Lord at Ground Zero. God is crying for all the lost souls - the dead ones and the ones still alive. We now have a prayer-station placed next to the van, and we see so many of the workers receiving prayers and gaining back some hope. We have seen a lot of people give their lives to the Lord. And a lot of people are comforted because they see us and they know we are praying. There are so many stories to tell, so many lives touched by God. We have heard so many stories of how God saved people from the falling towers, by sending angels or by telling people to get out. God was there when it all happened and he is still there - caring or the people and wanting them to turn their lives to Him. A lot of them are so open about their pain and sorrow and then some are just trying to keep their tough mask on. We experience that some of the workers rather want to talk with us - as we pour their coffee than talk with the professional counselors - because we are the ones with the Light.
Let me tell you about Sam. He is a police officer in charge of a group of rescue-workers. They are digging in the dirt, trying to find bodies so that maybe one more families can get some sort of closure. Sam is a very nice guy and he became good friends with one of our team members - Kerry. Kerry did everything he could to make sure Sam’s group of workers had what they needed - whether it is drinks, food or eye drops. This really touched Sam. Then Sam’s close friend died in an unrelated incident and as he was on the phone with his wife, they both decided it was time to change their lives and give it to Jesus. Sam came and told Kerry what he and his wife had done.
One of the maintenance persons in one of the buildings across the street of the Twin Towers was working Tuesday the 11th. He was thrown down in the basement of his building by the blow. When he crawled out, he was in shock and he just started to walk home - three and a half hours. Friday 21st was his first day back at work. He was still in shock, but he came to see our van. Someone got to minister to him and also he gave his life to the Lord. Now he will be able to heal from his traumatic experience.
The last couple of days we have been handing out medals to the heroes at Ground Zero - and that means everybody working there. The medal has a symbol of a torch, an olive branch and a hand holding the torch. The band holding the medal, is like the flag - it has a blue part with white stars and then red and white stripes. We tell everybody that we give them to that the torch symbolizes the Light of the world - which is Jesus, and it symbolizes freedom (statue of Liberty). The olive branch symbolizes peace and the peace that God can only bring in a time like this. The hand is the hand of God, holding the world and being in the midst of this tragedy. The band symbolizes the flag of America. We tell them that the red color is the firefighters that lost their lives, the blue is the police officers and the white is all the innocent people who have lost their lives. We are able to touch so many people lives this way. God is good and so definitely present.
Each day we were told we will have to leave and we were prepared at any time to be forced out. We look at it as a miracle each day that we were there. Wednesday 09.26.01 was our last day at Ground Zero. God had given us two weeks of ministering to the rescue-workers at Ground Zero. One firefighter told us that Ground Zero would have been a much more depressed place if it hadn’t been for us. He said that the Streetlife site with volunteers from the whole body of Christ and from all over America really meant a difference to Ground Zero and to the rescue-workers.
We all thank God for what we were able to be a part of. We will all remember how present God was in the time of terror and distress. We will all remember what a difference God made at Ground Zero.