For many of us who were alive at the time of September 11, 2001, our memories of that day, and the days that followed, are marked by stories of heroism and patriotism but also terrible loss and grief. But there is another theme that has been less publicized, and that is the effect prayer had on 9/11.
It’s hard to estimate the number of people that prayed that day or were moved to pray in the days leading up to the attack. One thing we know, as tragic as 9/11 was, it could’ve been far worse. While no harm or loss of life is acceptable, this attack could’ve resulted in even more widespread devastation. This is because the average number of people working at the World Trade Center in 2001 was roughly 50,000 people. Additionally, the number of daily visitors and tourists were around 140,000. The loss of life that day in New York was significant, at 2,823 people, but still much lower than what was intended by the attacks.
Through years of living in New York and researching about the psychological impact of 9/11, I’ve had the privilege to hear stories from people who should’ve been at the World Trade Center that day, but “something” happened that caused their plans or routines to change. I’ve heard countless stories, like my friend Tiffany, who invited another friend to breakfast. As a result, her friend wasn’t at the WTC that day.
One of the clearest stories I’ve heard about the power of prayer started with a dream that one of my friends had in 1998. In the dream, my friend, Julianna, was walking around downtown Manhattan near Trinity Church. As she walked along Trinity Place (street), she entered a 12-story gray building that had two revolving doors at the entrance. She walked into the building and began to shout, with great assurance, “It’s safe!” She then saw a lot of people running and scrambling inside the building and out on the streets. Then a great wave came which looked like a tsunami cascading down the street, but the wave didn’t enter the building. That was the end of the dream.
Later that week, Julianna went to her weekly prayer meeting where she shared the dream. Ada, who attended the prayer group, was also a high school principal. When she heard the dream, she recognized the description and location as characteristic of her school. Both ladies had a sense that God was leading them to pray for the safety of this high school, which was located near the World Trade Center.
For the next three years, Julianna and Ada walked around the school building and prayed for safety. Ada also enlisted some of her students and faculty to pray for safety. Although they never fully understood what they were praying about, they continued to pray.
On the day of September 11, 2001, Julianna was in her home in Brooklyn when she saw the news break about the Twin Towers. She saw the footage of people running and the cloud of smoke behind them. She knew that it was the tsunami wave that she saw in her dream, and she fell to her knees and began to pray for safety.
At the same time, Ada was with other faculty members assisting the students out of the school building. Before completely evacuating the area, one of the teachers went back into the building to make sure no one was left inside. While this teacher was in the building, he noticed that the smoke never entered the lobby. Not only was there no smoke, but Ada’s school did not suffer any damage and there were no broken windows from the attacks. However, the buildings to the right and left of the High School suffered structural damage.
Most importantly, Ada and the faculty were able to bring every student to safety, and no one was harmed. In the end, the dream was completely fulfilled. It truly was “safe” for every person in the school and for the building itself.
As we remember 9/11 and honor our first responders and service members, those who lost their lives and were wounded, and the families who lost loved ones, let’s also not forget that prayer changes things.s.