Churches Meet Needs at Ground Zero

"Brooklyn pastors and parishioners thank God for survival, but help victims and families cope."
Thousands of people, many covered with debris, came running across the bridge into Brooklyn as the World Trade Center came crashing down. As they streamed by Brooklyn Tabernacle hour after hour, church members set up tables with water and cold rags. In the road, which was now closed to traffic, someone used a bullhorn to tell passersby that they were welcome to pray inside.

Associate Pastor Al Toledo says that many who stopped at the church were members, stunned but filled with joy at their seemingly miraculous escape.

"They ran to the church, and we were able to rejoice with them," Toledo says.

Others, though, struggled to cope.

"Some people were just in total shock," Toledo says. "They would walk in, just shaking and trembling."

Many needed to be held and hugged and prayed for, Toledo says, while others had more immediate needs. One pregnant woman needed an ambulance. Others wanted to use a phone to talk to loved ones. A disoriented visitor to the city needed help to call her husband in Chicago. A young Jewish man, covered in rubble, knew he could come to the church for help.

"Later, he was interviewed on TV as one of the survivors of the whole thing," Toledo says, a note of joy momentarily replacing the fatigue in his voice. "He was all cleaned up, and he looked so nice. We were encouraged that we could help.

"We just try to basically react as the needs arise," Toledo says. "This is a very complicated situation to be helpful in because it's so chaotic." Members sent an allotment of water, underwear, and flashlights to ground zero for rescue workers.

"There are people whose loved ones are not accounted for," Toledo says of the church. "We wait and pray for the best. So many people are just waiting. It is too early to react, because ...

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