Below are some descriptions of the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, as shared by some members of Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship.
Katrina Yoder is a member of Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship. This is her account of taking her two daughters downtown the morning of 9/11/2001.
For those of you who are not familiar with Manhattan, Mica’s school is about a mile North of the Twin Towers on Greenwich St. When you look down Greenwich there is, or was, an unobstructed view of the Towers.
At about ten or fifteen minutes before nine on this perfect Fall morning, Mica, Noa and I were running south on Greenwich St., anxious about being late for school but laughing about our plans for the day. Just as we were crossing the street I heard a muffled boom and looking up, stopped dead, stunned to see an enormous, smoke-oozing-hole in the side of the North TwinTower. Like many of the witnesses I began to fumble for my cell phone. I was sobbing and gasping over and over, “The bastards! Oh the bastards!
They’ve done it again! How can this be happening again!” All of us remember the last time the tower was hit, but no one would ever have believed it could be twice in a lifetime. I tried 911 and not being able to get through called Mike at our construction site. “Oh Mike, they’ve done it again! The tower has been hit!” During our early NY era Mike had worked for several years in the southern tower on the 86th floor and has many friends and co-workers still in the towers. The girls were clinging to me crying “What?! Mommy, what happened?!” Noa seemed to only be able to focus on the construction workers running and yelling around us and the fact that Mom was breaking all of the safety rules, staying in the middle of the street regardless of the traffic coming at us. Mica kept saying, “Oh Mommy, is it my school? Is it my school?” Then they saw it too. Mica began to cry.
“Mommy,” she said, “Is there going to be a war?”
Looking back I realize how lucky we were not to have been hit by a cab; most of the traffic was still moving, drivers just beginning to come to a halt or twisting to look over their shoulder. A few people were moving out into the street with us and things were going into the slow motion of shock. We stood there a few moments crying and hugging. Noa said, “I don’t want to look!” and I forgot everything that was correct in handling children and crisis and told them, “You have to look. For one minute, you have to look.
The rest of your life you will remember this day. We owe it to those poor people to look.”
As I collected myself and began to move toward the school the girls were pointing, “Mommy, that lady says it was a plane! She says that it was a plane that made that hole!” Then, “What if my school gets hit by a plane with a bomb?” “Mica,” I told her, “You girls and your schools are the most important things in the world to Me, but I’m happy to say that you are not big or important to any terrorists. When someone’s thinking is so sick that they want to hurt others for angry attention, they try to hurt the biggest buildings and the most important people so that they’ll get the most attention. You are so safe!” Mica: “I’m crying because I’m scared. If we’re safe, then why are you crying?” “Because I’m just so sad.” We kept passing people on the sidewalk and then in the halls who would smile and greet us, oblivious to what had just happened. “Go look in the street!” I’d tell them. A bus pulled into the W. 10th stop and people started to load on. They hadn’t realized what had happened just around the corner from them. I remember telling one friend, “Forget the bus, Kevin! Go look at the towers!” We were shaking as we walked into Mica’s class and I told the teacher, “Well, I’m never again going to have an excuse like this for being late; we just saw a tower hit!” Mica’s teacher was amazingly calm and hustled Mica and the class in to activity and us out of the door after one last good-bye hug. (She later told me that she hadn’t understood the extent of what I was trying to tell her.)
Noa and I returned to the growing crowd on Greenwich Street and were worming our way through when people began to cry out in horror; a wave of fire flashed up the sides of the southern tower. Noa began to cry again, “I don’t want to look!” “Oh honey,” I told her, “Don’t you look anymore, but Mommy can’t NOT look.” We stayed there for about half an hour as the streets filled and people began to pass us, migrating north from the towers.
“You Promised we’d go to the library!” Noa insisted, so I returned to the school thinking I could fake a little normalcy for her at her favorite spot, but after one Dr. Seuss I told her, “Mamma can’t do this today! I feel too sad, we’ll take some books for You to look at but Mamma needs to look at the towers.” As we made our way out of the building we realized that the school was closing and backtracked to Mica’s class, collecting her and heading to the street to try to get back to the Mennonite Guest House where we’ve been staying. The towers were gone and only an enormous mushroom of smoke was left.
As we walked slowly north again Mica said to Noa, “I’m so sad for my friend!
Her Daddy works at the towers but I told her, ‘what floor does he work on? The 12th? 14th? 15th?’ and she said ‘Yes the 15th sounded right’ so I told her not to worry then ’cause it looked to me like the plane hit around the 80th floor or something and he’d have lots of time to run down from the 15th.” And Noa said, “That’s good!” and then after a pause, “He’s gonna have to look for a different job now though.” As we walked further though Mica told me, “I can’t stop being afraid! I keep thinking I’m going to step on a land-mine and make another bomb!” “Oh, girl-dear! I promise you that there are no land-mines in our country! You are safe!” Another block.
“When I grow up I want to give lots of blood to share with other people and Mommy, if something happens to me and I die too, I don’t want to be buried, I want to share all of my bones and everything to help other kids that have been hurt.” The next block. “Mommy, what exactly does terrorist mean?” and as I struggle to explain, “I understand why they named them that but they used the wrong word. The terror only lasts for a little bit. They should have called them sorrowists.”
The MMF response to 9/11
Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship
314 East 19th Street New York, NY 10003 phone: 212-673-7970
September 20, 2001
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We at Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship wish to thank you for your sustaining prayers for our community and our city. We are particularily grateful for the presence of the Mennonite Disaster Service grief crisis counselors at this time.
We ask for your continued prayers as we attempt to recreate the routine of our lives.
As residents of New York City and as members of this community we have witnessed the horror of Sepember 11 and have been changed by that day.
Some of us stood paralyzed on the street looking south to the familiar horizon of our city, witnessing the blazing fires on the top floors of the towers. Others were evacuated from their workplaces around the World Trade Center and ran ahead of the tide of dust from the collapsing buildings. One from our church spent 32 hours at his work as a homeless counselor 7 blocks from the WTC. Another has been serving with the New York City Fire Department, surviving the loss of many of his colleagues.
We have spent the past week calling our friends and family, hoping to get through the gridlock of phone lines, just to say we are “safe.” The city is plastered with posters of missing people whose faces and names have become familiar to us. Our ears have become unstopped and we can hear the sound of sirens again. Our frayed nerves make us panic at the slightest distruption.
The terror of that day has developed. Our lives are made of the full spectrum of emotions. Some of us feel guilty that we are still here while many from our city are missing. Others of us still sob. A seven year old child in our congregation renamed the perpetrators as “sorrowists.” To her the terror only lasted a minute but the sorrow is her lingering burden.
But grace is still at work in our lives even as we struggle to choose peace over anger, love over fear. Union Square (the park nearest to our church) has been the site of a nearly continuous peace vigil. In the last week we have discovered that many of our friends and colleagues agree with us that only a non-violent response will bring out a just result. Our churches, mosques and synagogues are beacons of hope, comfort and peace to millions of New Yorkers.
As our confession of faith states “the church is called to proclaim and be a sign of the kingdom of God.” What does it mean to live out our lives as witnesses to God’s peace? What does it mean to seek the shalom of the city and the world? After the events of September 11 we are struggling to chose love over fear as we learn to live in God’s Kingdom. We oppose war even in this situation.
Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship
Personal stories of the terrorist attack, including mine, are located at the wayback machine