When terrorists flew American Airlines flight 77 into the
Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Gaylon Moss was in his office in Cary. Like most
Americans, he was shocked and perplexed by the news. As North Carolina Baptist
Men’s (NCBM) Disaster Relief director and volunteerism coordinator, Moss would
not have time to mentally or emotionally process these events before a 10:59
a.m. telephone call came to him from the national coordinator of Baptist Men’s
disaster response teams.
The voice on the other end of the phone asked Moss to place
all N.C. Baptist units on standby. He recounted the events of that morning in a
memorial service at First Baptist in Boone on Sept. 11, 2011. He said, “This is
unprecedented to have that many units on standby … feeding units, shower
units, everyone!” He sensed that the events of the day would significantly
impact America and the ministry of NCBM.
The memorial service was a 10-year anniversary gathering of
the first NCBM disaster response team to arrive at the Pentagon. It afforded
these volunteers a time to remember their work from 10 years ago, and
memorialize the occasion with First Baptist’s congregation in their morning
Moss remembered calling Skip Greene that day 10 years ago
and assigning him to assemble a response team. The first thought was that the
team would be going to New York. Later he called Green to send them to the
The team left at midnight Tuesday and arrived at the
Pentagon at 9 a.m. Wednesday. A police motorcycle escort led them to their
place of ministry for the next 20 days. They were not prepared for what they
saw or felt.
Charlie Fox was on the team. He remembers, “We traveled all
night and were very tired on arrival. As the motorcycle police led them to the
scene, Fox remembers, “the smell of fire on our arrival. It took a minute for
it to sink in.” It was not a brushfire or house fire in the area. “That the
smell was the Pentagon.” When they arrived in the parking lot, “We just sat a
moment and cried, (with) the realization that the greatest nation in the world
was vulnerable,” Fox said.
Setting up in the parking lot their emotions changed from
shock, to sadness, to anger, to a focus on their purpose – ministering to the
Rob Holton, another lay leader of First Baptist said, “This
was my first ever trip on a Baptist Men’s team. None of the folks who went to
Washington knew they were going. Then all of a sudden a few hours later … we
were on the road and arrived less than 24 hours after the planes hit.”
Holton was shocked “Seeing those big, huge light poles
laying on the ground, realizing a plane had to be that low to hit them …” It
gave sobering perspective to their assignment.
Graydon Eggers and Rob Holton were together in Eggers’
office when the terrorists used airplanes to attack America. That afternoon it
was Eggers who recruited Holton to join the team. Eggers remembers the
exhausting work that first week. People were in a state of shock. But he
remembers most the way Americans were drawn together.
Eggers recalls, “It really didn’t hit me until we were on
our way home somewhere along I-81. We stopped at a Burger King. We still had
our yellow shirts on, and our caps, and our ID badges. We were tired and were
just trying to get a meal. We didn’t realize what was going on around us …
the manager came up to us and asked us what we had been doing. He said, ‘your
money is no good here.’ He just wanted to have some part in the recovery.”
Another First Baptist team member was Dan Norman. He
reminded everyone, “N.C. Baptist Men is not just a place for men to serve.
Women served on the Pentagon team, too.”
About a month after 9/11 some Baptist Men were invited back
to the Pentagon for a memorial service. Families of those who died in the crash
were invited along with military dignitaries. He said, “N.C.
Baptists were given a cross made out of the rubble of the
Pentagon. It was a gift to say ‘Thank you’ to N.C. Baptists for our
“The Pentagon never had a chapel before 9/11. Where the plane impacted
the Pentagon is now a chapel of worship.”
Larry Woodrow (Boone) and Dale Duncan (Spruce Pine) told
stories of their service at the Pentagon and in New York City.
“I’ve learned to listen an awful lot,” Duncan said. “I was
nothing but the dishwasher on the feeding team … but most of all I had the
opportunity to sit, talk, witness and share Christ with those hurting firemen,
FBI and policemen who came to our food kitchen.”
Duncan continued to witness for Christ through 8 trips to
Ground Zero. At least 20 Baptist churches have been planted in New York since
that tragic day.
He pointed out that, “Forty percent of the churches in
Manhattan, New York sprang up since 9/11,” evidence that Baptist Men is still
working in New York City.