By Christina Ray Stanton
In September 2001, my husband and I had been married a year. We had just moved back to New York City after living that first year in another state where Brian had been assigned a short project through IBM. Life back in NYC was exciting. Brian was looking into new job opportunities, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with my friends, whom I had missed greatly.
We found a rental in the Financial District on the 24th floor of a building that featured a terrace overlooking the World Trade Center, which was just six blocks away. Everything about life seemed new and exciting, full of possibilities.
On the morning of 9/11, I was awakened by Brian screaming that a bomb had gone off in the World Trade Center. We rushed onto the terrace and watched the scene before us: people running across the highway to the Hudson river, the ambulances, fire trucks, and police speeding down the highway, as well as the fire that shot out from either side of the building.
A few minutes later, a plane came streaking overhead — just 500 feet above us — and slammed straight into Tower 2. We were blown back into our building from that impact onto the floor of our living room. That was the start of the terrible day that changed our lives forever.
Soon after we evacuated our building, the WTC buildings imploded, covering us in dust and debris. We spent the morning outrunning the black smoke in Battery Park that threatened to asphyxiate us. We eventually evacuated to New Jersey by boat. We later learned that boats had carried 500,000 people away from Lower Manhattan, making us part of the largest boat evacuation in history.
Our Recovery Begins
We made our way back to the city some days later, staying first with friends, then with a kind stranger. We were in shock and depression, made even worse by our dog becoming sick after licking the dust that covered him in an attempt to clean himself. The veterinarian explained that the glass in the dust had shredded his esophagus.
Our landlord told us that we wouldn’t be able to return to our apartment for a while — or possibly never. The collapse of the towers had registered on the Richter scale as an earthquake, so nearby buildings, including ours, had to be tested to determine if they were structurally sound.
I became worried about the vet expense and other mounting bills while we were displaced. We weren’t used to asking for help, but a close Christian friend encouraged me to go to Redeemer Presbyterian Church for monetary assistance. She told me people from all over the world had donated to Redeemer and that I should apply to receive aid. Although I had attended Redeemer when I was single, Brian and I were still in the process of choosing a church. We weren’t members and had even set our sights on another church. She urged me to go anyway.
Grace Moves Us In a New Direction
The director of the division managing those funds handled things with dignity and grace and alleviated my embarrassment over being there. The church quickly produced a check that covered our bills, and we subsequently decided to make Redeemer our home church.
A lot has changed for my husband and I since 9/11. It has caused us to re-evaluate our relationship with our careers, with each other, and with God. Through that indescribable event, God provided and revealed to us a new hope and a new future. Brian left his financial industry job and accepted a job at Redeemer as the chief financial officer. I run the missions department. Many congregants are among our closest friends, and we take our roles in the Redeemer ministry seriously.
God was a present help and refuge through one of the worst days in American history and the worst day in our lives for sure. Because of that experience, we were molded more into His image, and we enjoy a deeper relationship with Him. We have the freedom to give away in increasing measure to others as a result. We now live with the assurance that through faith in Christ, we don’t have to fear anything and our brokenness is where He meets us in His strength.
Christina Ray Stanton is the short-term missions director for Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Timothy Keller, founder) and founder of the nonprofit organization Loving All Nations (lovingallnations.org), which helps the world’s poor. Learn more about Christina’s 9/11 story at christinaraystanton.com and in her book Out of the Shadow of 9/11: An Inspiring Tale of Escape and Transformation.