|We gave this sermon on November 18th,
2001 at Paradise Church, Louisville, Ohio
Jim - Heavenly father, please let the words we speak be to your glory & honor, in Jesuss name we pray - Amen
Jim - When I was 13 years old, Reverend Keiser asked me to speak to you as part of my God & Country Award for the Boy Scouts of America. My mother & father were in Florida and my grandma was watching Terry & Rex & me. I will never forget the feeling when I awoke that morning at 10:30 and I had missed the service. So today, 44 years later, I get my chance. *
Jim As a member of the Cleveland Blood Services Board & the Central Stark County Chapter Services Board for the American Red Cross I would like to thank you, the people of Paradise Church for your special collection that was contributed to the American Red Cross back in September. People frequently ask: "Can we trust that the Red Cross money is being spent properly?" Mary & I have worked hard for the Red Cross and we believe you can!
Jim The Red Cross is under fire from the press and it is easy to jjump onto their bandwagon. Red Cross is under congressional mandate to act as the primary keeper & collector of Americas blood supply. Congress has asked us to maintain a safe supply of blood (10-day), but, for the last 5 years, we have been running on less than a 3-day supply. Dr. Healy, our President, kept collecting blood to get our inventory closer to the congressional mandate. Keep in mind, we are at war in Afghanistan and we should have a higher inventory to protect our military overseas. Each pint of blood is separated into Red Blood Cells, Platelets (to treat cancer patients), and Plasma. Prior to 9-11, nationally, we were discarding 2.5% of the red blood cells. September 11 through 18, we collected almost double what we normally collect. Red blood cells have a 42-day shelf life. Over the last 20 days, N.E. Ohio Blood Services has discarded 1.6% of our red blood cells while over the whole nation; the Red Cross has discarded about 6% of their red blood cells. Even on the discarded blood, the Platelets were used to treat cancer patients. And now on with our story about NYC.
Mary - I am sure that each of us will always remember, just as when JFK was assassinated, where we were during the events of September 11th. Myself, I had put my little dog in the basket of my bike and rode a short way to the Alsation at St. Joseph Hospice Care Center to visit my parents for a few minutes. It was a beautiful sunny day, a cloudless blue sky that always seems more vivid in September. The leaves were starting to change and I couldnt help praising the Lord for the miracle of his artistry. However in the next few minutes, standing in front of my parents TV, we witnessed a horrible crime that would forever change our lives.
Mary - Little did I know when I left the house that morning that Jim & I would be spending 3 weeks in NYC working as volunteers for the American Red Cross.
Mary - Little did I know that Id witness this unspeakable tragedy up close.
Mary - Little did I know how Id witness the awakening of America to Gods grace & goodness.
Jim - The next 24 hours were extremely difficult ones. I went to a Red Cross Donor Recruitment meeting at noon on the 11th in Cleveland to discuss the current blood inventory in northeast Ohio and how it related to the disaster. On my way home, I called Mary & asked if we could go to NYC because, Canton needed someone to drive their ERV to NYC. An ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) is the vehicle we drive that we feed out of. It looks like an ambulance, red bottom with a white top that has a big Red Cross on it, but we have nothing to do with medical care, it is strictly used to feed in emergencies.
Mary To Jims question, can we go? I immediately said yes, then almost immediately regretted it. What was I thinking? Who knows what will happen there next? At that point, we didnt know what else the terrorists had in store for us? What about our children, our grand daughters, our brand new grand daughter, our parents? Shouldnt we be here in case they needed us? Many calls from my daughters & friends added to my confusion. These concerns mixed with a huge amount of fear set in. But after sending many pleas to heaven for guidance, I began to feel that God wanted us there, and if that is what he wanted, then that is what we wanted. A kind of peace settled in, and it remained through out our mission. I felt completely safe well except for couple of times when we were told to run for our lives I could have beat an antelope out of there!
Jim - Some people ask Why do you do it? After retiring we still wanted to do something meaningful with our lives. In August of 1999 we spent 21 days as volunteers in Goldsboro, N.C. for the enormous floods of Hurricane Floyd. A year later, I served 10 days at the floods of Charleston and Clarksburg, W.Va. Locally, we both worked the Chlorine spill at Route 62 & Harrisburg that occurred last November and several house fires. Weve found that in volunteering, we both get great satisfaction from helping others in need.
Mary - Once the decision was made, the phone calling began, and Jim & I cancelled the next 3 weeks of our normal lives. Family & neighbors graciously looked after our lives put on hold. Jims mom, Lucille, did her "patriotic duty" by watching our yappy Pomeranian Elli. Megan looked in daily on the cat, Abby, who stayed alone for 3 weeks. Neighbors took in the mail, mowed the grass, fed the fish and cleaned the pond. Everything seemed to fall into place. We packed our gear and at noon on Wednesday, September 12th, we were driving the ERV to NYC via Interstate 80.
Jim - The spirit shown by the people on the highway was our first inkling of America coming together. We were touched to have people who were going the same way as we were give us the thumbs up sign. From small children to drivers of tractor-trailers, they all were showing their support. Due to their spirit and our unknown mission, we shed quite a few tears on the drive up. We arrived at the Red Cross chapter house just west of Central Park at 7 PM. 15 other ERVs crews from the East Coast were lined up in the street along with a huge crowd of New Yorkers willing to volunteer their services.
Mary - The Chapter wasnt ready or equipped to run 15 ERVs and handle all of the calls they were getting from the New Yorkers so things were pretty chaotic, but we finally got checked in. We were given our hotel arrangements & were told to report back at 5:00 am. So we checked into the Park Central, 300 yards north of Times Square. That was to be our home for 18 of the next 21 days we were there.
Mary - Many people ask: "Where do we stay?" The Red Cross provides housing, usually a Days Inn or similar. This hotel was a cut above the usual, but keep in mind, the hotels, restaurants & theaters were empty so the hotels were a real bargain. Red Cross also pays for our transportation to & from the disaster and gave us a $40 per diem for meals and laundry and telephone calls (North Carolina was only $28). Most of our Red Cross co-workers are retired people who couldnt afford these expenses, so it is an important expenditure or there wouldnt be enough workers.
Mary - The next morning we reported to work, filled the ERV with packaged foods such as chips, cookies, power bars, raisins, juices, soda and 35 to 50 cases of water. While Jim was getting our assignment, I met a Local Disaster Volunteer, named Roxana, who did not have an assignment so we gave her one, our ERV. She knew NYC like the back of her hand and proved to be an excellent worker & friend. There are 3 seats in an ERV. She sat in front with Jim and directed us through back streets that arent even on the map. Jims excellent driving ability squeezed us through some places that I felt as if we were the proverbial camel going through the eye of a needle. Many times I just shut my eyes & prayed, grateful to be in the back. After clearing 3 check points with our Ids, we ended up inside ground zero where we set up our feeding station for firemen, rescue workers, police, etc. This of course was our first view of the rubble & the horror that had taken place. We were standing in one-inch thick ashes and viewing a horrendous pile of smoking mangled steel, which was once the World Trade Center. For the first 2 days, we drove around & handed out water, fruit & snacks to the firemen and rescue workers as we found them. Eventually, we were assigned a Grade School, 200 yards from the Trade Center that was perfect as a permanent feeding station.
Jim - On our first day at the Grade School, we found there was 1/8" of dust on everything in the school. The windows had been left open when the children and teachers had left in a hurry. The whole school was disorganized, but with the help of many Local Disaster Volunteers, it became a comfortable, clean cafeteria where the workers could come to eat & rest. Each classroom had 4 or 5 cots set up as a sleeping facility for the firemen & rescue workers and they were used on a daily basis. In the gymnasium, NYC had set up a Triage Center for medical care. Just outside of the front door of the school, the City of New York had set up a distribution system for masks, respirators, gloves, flashlights, batteries, boots, helmets, and blankets etc. We were impressed because NYC had tons of this equipment stored in City Hall, ready for any emergency.
Mary - Since returning, many people have asked us if it was worse in person than it was on TV. The answer of course is, yes, it was without exception the most shocking thing weve ever seen. To stand in front of something that wed seen happen on TV a few short hours earlier; to see it in perspective, the size of it, along with the smell, the sounds of equipment and the faces of the workers. To know that in that hideous pile were thousands of people, maybe some still alive was overwhelming. To know that all this was not caused by an accident but by people who purposely did it to demonstrate their hatred for us was almost unbearable. We saw the rubble every day because of where we were stationed, and every time, it brought tears and heartache. The blessing for us was we were working so hard & kept so busy that we could put it out of our minds. But when we returned to our hotel we would let go with our emotions and were glad to have had each other to hold.
Jim - For the first 4 days, we served snacks & beverages because our National Red Cross disaster mission coordinators could not get into NYC due to the Airlines being shut down. When the planes started flying again, they came from Texas, Montana, California, & Florida, and once they arrived, the mission quickly came together. There were 3 kitchens, all manned by the Southern Baptist Convention. We were one of ten ERVs assigned to Kitchen 2 about a mile north of the WTC in a UPS parking lot. Kitchen 2 was made up of 60 volunteers from Tennessee. They follow the Red Cross whenever mass feeding is required on a National level. They set up their kitchens out doors & cooked around the clock to feed the workers at the WTC who also were working around the clock in the rescue effort. This is their mission for Christ, and they do it without thoughts of themselves or complaint. They slept on mats on the UPS floor. Showered in a homemade portable shower and used portable toilets. Many of them were husband & wife teams like us. In 3 tractor-trailers, the Red Cross stored the food that our kitchen would prepare. Normally they had 2 hot dishes and one cold per meal. For example: grilled chicken, beans & potatoes, cold peaches and hot coffee. At peak, Kitchen #2 was preparing 6,000 meals per meal. Mary & I were serving 1200 of these.
Jim - Our typical day: we were up at 3:30 AM. We would catch a Red Cross shuttle in front of the hotel at 4:00 and arrive at 5:00 at Kitchen 2. Mary would load the ERV with snacks, beverages, paper products and hot coffee while I would load the cambros with the hot food in them onto the ERV (a cambro is a 75-pound cooler with a flip lid, designed specifically for the Red Cross feeding mission). We would take breakfast to the gates of ground zero, produce our IDs to get in and park in front of the school. We would serve until 10:00 AM, and then drive back to the kitchen to load lunch. We would stop serving lunch at about 4:00 and return to the kitchen to clean up the 18 cambros. We took the subway Uptown, had dinner on the way back to the hotel, then headed home to call our children and parents & go to sleep about 8 or 9 PM.
Mary - In the cafeteria is where Jim & I looked into the eyes and faces of those who so selflessly worked day & night, driven to find survivors, many of whom were their friends & fellow workers. We served hot meals to them whenever they took time to eat. They were always ravenously hungry & did appreciate our food. On the tables were piles of letters to support the rescue workers sent from children all over the world, telling how they felt about the plane crashes. You couldnt read them and not cry. (Show bag & letter)
Jim - I spent a lot of time outdoors, telling workers that the Red Cross would feed them inside our Grade School at 7:00 AM, noon, and 6:00 PM from now until the end of the mission. Many of the work crews changed every day or 2; many were from out of town, from as far away as Chicago, who came to relieve the exhausted NY workers. As the days passed, we fed more & more utility workers (Verizon, Con Edison, Ameritech), construction workers & cleaning people who came into ground zero to start the clean up and repairs necessary to get things back to normal in the area around the WTC. Within 1000 yards surrounding the WTC were high rise apartments, businesses, and restaurants that were full of dust, broken glass, and rotting food. After 2 weeks, the WTC neighborhood still had no utilities, water or phone connections.
Mary - By the 17th day, we were mentally & physically exhausted, and ready to be replaced. We met a nice new couple named Jerry & Charlotte from Atlanta. They did our run with us for a day and we felt good about them taking over our school cafeteria. Jerry was a clone of Jim! The 2 of them on a good day could clean up NYC by themselves. Two high energy guys. We made many good friends while we were there and well keep in touch through e-mail. Some of the Local Disaster Volunteers that we worked with are still there working. We miss them very much.
Mary - We were honored & blessed to be able to go to NYC & help where we could. We dont feel what we did was anything big, but we do feel that along with the help of many others, we did make a difference. The people that we worked with and the people that we served, have made a tremendous impact on our lives that will last forever. Every where we turned, we saw God in the eyes & hearts of the people. We discovered a warmth & goodness about people, especially New Yorkers, that before September 11th, we hadnt seen. Even New Yorkers commented on the lack of New York eyes. New York eyes meaning; those who walk down the street, looking at the ground, ignoring other people. We discovered that Americans in general are the most loving and generous people on earth. It is evidenced by the amount that has been given to charity and the throngs of people who wanted to volunteer. Some came from far away and begged to help. One day, a girl from upstate NY, came to the kitchen with a small tin of cookies she had baked for the workers. She begged me to put her to work, she had gotten in with no ID. I put her to work cleaning tables & organizing snacks. She worked hard & was happy to do it, even if it wasnt glamorous.
Jim In the ERV on the way up, Mary had told me she was not going to fly home. I believed her, so early on, I made arrangements with my brother Tom & his wife Judy to come up to NYC and pick us up. They got to see it first hand.
Mary - Many people ask, "Why did God allow this to happen to us?" To quote Billy Grahams daughter, "For years, we have been telling God to get out of our schools, our government, and our lives. Being the gentlemen that I believe he is, he has quietly backed out. How can we expect his blessing, his protection if we demand that he leave us alone?" Even unbelievers cry to God for help in emergencies, and God wants us all to depend on him & ask for his help. But after he does, he is often forgotten. God wants to be a part of our everyday lives. He wants us to ask him into every situation.
Mary - Wed like read to you an excerpt from a sermon by Rick Warren that he gave on 9-23-01 called "What a Difference a Day Makes"September 10th - Americans watched a TV show called "Fear Factor"September 11th - Americans experienced it!
Mary - September 10th People gossiped about celebrities
Jim - September 11th People thought about heroes
Mary - September 10th Americans discussed diversity
Jim - September 11th Americans demonstrated unity
Mary - September 10th People lined up to watch movies
Jim - September 11th People lined up to give blood
Mary - September 10th We felt we were invincible
Jim - September 11th We realized we were vulnerable
Mary - September 10th Democrats were fighting Republicans
Jim = September 11th Democrats & Republicans held hands and sang "God Bless America"
Mary - September 10th People packed into clubs to party
Jim - September 11th People packed into churches to pray
Mary - September 10th We saved money for school or retirement
Jim - September 11th We gave money away to help others
Mary - September 10th We thought wed live forever
Jim - September 11th We saw how fragile life really is!
Mary - September 10th Parents argued with their kids
Jim - September 11th Parents hugged their kids tightly
Mary - September 10th People e-mailed jokes
Jim - September 11th People e-mailed prayers
Mary - September 10th We focused on ourselves
Jim - September 11th We focused on God!
Mary - Sept 11th has been a wake up call to America. We have seen what the godless can do. Weve also seen how much we need God in every faction of our lives. We must stay "awake". We must never become complacent again. We dont know what tomorrow will bring, just as we didnt on September 11th, but, if we embrace Jesus Christ and his teachings and accept Gods free gift of salvation, we know that we can face whatever tomorrow may bring. We know that God in his sovereignty is in control and we can put all our trust in him. He will not fail us!
Mary - "God Bless America" --- Amen
|*footnote - In March of 2002. Through the hard work of a scout leader that attends our church, the Boy Scouts of America National Hqtrs. approved the God & Country award for me. They surprised me with it in front of the whole congregation. It means more to me now than it would have when I was 14.|
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