Thursday, September 17, 2009
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2001 | VOLUME 28 | NUMBER 6
By Lisa Master Photograph by Tom Mills
Lieutenant Colonel Ken Cox stared in disbelief as networks replayed the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center. Suddenly he heard a loud bang and felt the Pentagon quake. As others scrambled out of the building, Ken rushed toward the smoke.
Approaching what looked like the front tire of an airplane, and seeing people dangling above him in the wreckage, he grabbed five other men, and they crisscrossed arms, forming a human net for people on the third floor to jump to safety.
When the rescuers could no longer reach those who clung to the burning building, they turned over a large trash bin, and two men propped a ladder on Ken's shoulders. Finally, the men made three trips into the inferno, dodging collapsing walls. Soon smoke engulfed them, making it impossible to rescue any o n e else. Even Ken's flashlight could not cut the black fog.
"I don't know how many climbed down to safety," says the officer, "but I cried out to the Lord to help me. What better thing can a man do than lay his life down for another?"
Ken sprang into action just as the U.S. Army had trained him to do. Likewise, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on Tuesday, September 11, God deployed His people to meet physical and spiritual needs.
At 6:30 Wednesday morning, Christian Embassy staff members entered the still-burning building to lead the weekly Wednesday prayer breakfast for officers and civilian leaders. Since 1975, Christian Embassy, a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, has reached out to political and military leaders in Washington, D.C.
"It was powerful to gather with God's people right there on location," says Corky Eddins, who directs the Pentagon outreach. "Several described how God had miraculously spared their lives. Together we cried out to God for mercy on behalf of our nation, the rescue efforts and especially those who had lost loved ones."
That same morning, Pentagon chaplain Colonel Henry Haynes felt like he was back on the battlefield. His assistant was on leave, and the phone rang repeatedly. Then Corky and two associates stopped by. "Those guys walked right in, answering phones and comforting people," says Chaplain Haynes. When he got called to the crash site, his Christian Embassy friends held down the fort.
Thursday went much the same. At 7:00 p.m. Chaplain Haynes finally plopped into his office chair to listen to voice mail. One message from Corky, informing him that President Bush had declared Friday a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, suggested they do something. Another message from his boss ordered him to arrange three services the next day.
Chaplain Haynes immediately contacted Corky, who offered to call leaders active in Bible studies. Five agreed to participate in the services, including Major General Robert "General Van" Van Antwerp.
Friday morning Christian Embassy staff member Dick Morton organized the distribution of fliers announcing the services. More than 1,200 people attended the services, which were also shown on closed-circuit television throughout the Pentagon and picked up by national news networks.
General Van emphasized the importance of relationships, especially his own relationship with Christ.
"By the grace of God, I was not in the building," says General Van, whose office was located at the point of impact. He had left the building earlier that morning with most of his team for an off-site meeting.
"Because I'm still here, I need to make every day count," says the father of five. "We have a short window of time where I think a lot of people will come to Christ." Since the attack, General Van and other believers have boldly, yet sensitively, told others of the hope and security they have in Christ Jesus.
And people are listening. Army Chief Warrant Officer Craig Sincock had worked all day Tuesday and into the night to help rescue efforts, all the while hoping to find his wife of 24 years, Cheryle —- General Van's secretary —- who perished in the attack.
Craig spent time with General Van and went to the Family Assistance Center set up by the Department of Defense to help family members of the 189 victims. There he met Corky, who, together with his wife, Georgie, had volunteered to help people wade through the emotional rubble from the crash.
A week later, Craig told Corky he'd surrendered his life to God: "Over the years I've given God little parts of my life, but I've always been afraid to give Him everything. Early this morning, as I was driving in, I put my life in His hands."
Corky, along with Paula VanAntwerp, General Van's wife, who also volunteers at the Family Assistance Center, continues to encourage Craig. "This rocked the foundation of people's seeming faith," says Paula, who received Christ through Campus Crusade's I Found ItSM campaign in 1976. "They need a foundation, and that's where Christians can come in."
Dan Barker, a civilian working in the Pentagon, met a man reeling from the crash. So Dan called another Bible-study leader of the grieving man's same military branch and rank to talk with him.
This personal contact holds together more than 200 leaders involved in Christian Embassy and provided the infrastructure God used when terrorists invaded the home of the nation's military.
"Christian Embassy continues to help," says Chaplain Haynes. "It's a blessing to have them operate without a lot of guidance. There isn't an hour that goes by that someone doesn't stop by to see what needs to be done. That's how I know God is alive and well in this building."
Another chaplain agreed. "This gap is evil," he said of the 100-foot-wide gash cut into the 60-year-old building, "but God is here. God was at Calvary and He is here."
God deployed his people at the Pentagon the week of September 11. People like Ken Cox, who risked his own life to save others. He spent the night in the hospital to clear smoke from his lungs. But Ken won't tell you that. That's the sacrifice of a soldier. And that's the sacrifice of a follower of Christ.
For more information visit www.christianembassy.com and www.dchope.com.