9/11 survivors reflect during night of hope
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
September 13, 2011

9/11 survivors reflect during night of hope

9/11 survivors reflect during night of hope
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
September 13, 2011

NEW YORK – It was hard to listen to the soulful,

toe tapping, jazz-like tunes and not clap along, especially during the group’s

rendition of “Just a closer walk with thee.” From all the laughter and smiles,

one would not have guessed the crowd to be gathered for an event related to the

terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Nor would it seem obvious that those gathered

represented 9/11 survivors.

Yet the upbeat melodies from the trombone and

tambourine seemed only fitting, for this was not a somber occasion at Graffiti

Church in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. On the evening before the 10th

anniversary of 9/11, survivors gathered together for a night of hope; a night

to remember, rejoice and give God thanks for His faithfulness even in the

darkest days.

The evening included dinner and times of prayer,

listening and sharing from survivors such as Jacqulyn McNally, whose stepfather

died during the 9/11 attacks. It took three weeks for her family to find out

for sure that their loved one had died.

When McNally first found out about the attacks

it was her aunt she was worried about.

Her aunt worked at a hotel near the World Trade

Center. She didn’t even know her stepfather was at the World Trade Center that

day until his boss called later in the day to see if anyone had heard from him.

It was then McNally learned that her stepfather’s route that day of making

deliveries included a stop at the World Trade Center.

McNally shared that her stepfather knew Jesus as

His personal Savior, and she knew that her hope was only found in Jesus Christ.

McNally prayed to receive Jesus as her personal

Lord and Savior in 1998. Two years later, her stepfather came to faith in

Christ. Actually, since McNally was saved, many members of her family have also

come to know Jesus Christ. God used McNally’s faithfulness to share with her

faith with her family to draw others to Himself.

Trina Craft, a 15-year member of Graffiti

Church, is another survivor who gave a testimony. Craft was supposed to have a

job interview that day on the 86th floor in one of the towers. A neighbor

called her that morning to see if she had already left for the interview and to

tell her what had just happened at the World Trade Center.

Craft, who is usually one to be a few minutes

early, was running late that day and was still home when her neighbor called.

Craft’s cousin died on Sept. 11. He was a rescue

worker trying to help people.

BSC photo

Graffiti Church Pastor Taylor Field signs a “wall of remembrance,” looking back at 9/11.

One year after the attacks, Craft came to

Graffiti for help. She took computer classes at Graffiti to help her be better

able to find a job. She then began volunteering in the computer lab, and now

her full time job is teaching computer and ESL classes and running the soup

kitchen at Graffiti.

Craft said during the last decade she has

learned to trust God, and to know that whatever happens is His will for her


Ashley Allen, director of Embrace Women’s

Missions and Ministries for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina,

began praying last year for an opportunity for women in North Carolina to reach

out and minister to those whose lives forever changed after 9/11. The Sept. 10

dinner was an answer to those prayers.

Allen and a team of 16 women from North Carolina

Baptist churches came to New York City to work with Graffiti Church and Kareem

Goubran, Graffiti’s director of adult ministries, to host the event. The North

Carolina team also spent several days serving in mission projects throughout

New York City.

“We wanted to encourage survivors of 9/11 and to

help them remember that there’s still hope in the midst of tragedy,” Allen

said. “Jesus Christ is the one constant.”

Allen said what impressed her heart the most was

seeing the “raw transparency” of the survivors. “You could tell the grieving

process takes time,” she said, speaking of a woman who cried as she talked

about running for her life as the towers fell.

Lisa Chilson-Rose, author of As the towers fell, also helped bring to

life what happened that day. She spoke about believers like police officer

Brian O’Neil, who worked to pull body parts and personal items from the rubble.

In her book she writes that after 9/11 O’Neil is more outspoken about his faith

and has a stronger relationship with Jesus.

Chilson-Rose now lives in Alabama and serves

with the state Baptist convention, but she spent 16 years living in New York

and working at the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. She was also a

member of Graffiti Church, which has been ministering to 9/11 survivors for the

past 10 years.

After the terrorist attacks, Goubran was brought

on church staff to direct the 9/11 recovery program. Graffiti wanted to help

minister long-term as well as short term, and so the church offered financial

assistance, grief support and job development opportunities. Partners such as N.C.

Baptist Men assisted in those efforts.

Goubran said the night of hope dinner was a way

for ministry to continue with 9/11 survivors and to remind them that even after

10 years they are not forgotten and people are still here – and will continue

to be here – to care for them.

“Ministry is about being present, because God is

present in the struggle,” he said. “God does not forget us when we’re in need.

If we don’t believe God can bring the best from the worst, then why the cross?”

Perhaps the greatest testimonies of hope that

night came not from those who shared on the stage, but from those who died

September 11, 2001.

“Their testimonies continued to live on,” Chilson-Rose

said. “We don’t realize what an impact we have on others. Never take for

granted what influence you will have on someone’s life.”