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 the information is so sketchy."

The church has left several telephone lines open for members to leave messages about those who have been found and those who are still missing. Someone checks those mailboxes each hour.

Other area churches also face the challenge of accounting for members. At Christian Life Center, a Brooklyn church with more than 10,000 members, Pastor A.R. Bernard Sr. and several members of the administrative team used their database to compile a list of about 150 members who worked in or near the World Trade Center. They spent most of Thursday calling for those members.

The church also has a voicemail box for members to leave messages. It is asking people to share what they know concerning the whereabouts of family members and friends.

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Mickey Heller, the church's director of legal affairs, says God kept many of the church's members from their usual locations at the World Trade Center at the time of the attack.

"Just about everyone wasn't there, or was working on one of the lower floors," Heller says. "For one reason or another, the Holy Spirit led them not to go to work. Some went to vote in the primary that morning; others went to the bank first or decided to stay home." All but three people are accounted for. "We're still believing God for them."

Because so many people from his church were spared, Heller says, much of the ministry will focus on the lingering effects of the tragedy.

"It's not so much the event itself—it's the aftershock," he says. "It's like a pebble that falls into a pond. People will be dealing with the fact that they don't have jobs anymore, or the loss of a loved one." Heller says churches will need to combat a spirit of depression, despair, and hopelessness as people realize how deeply their lives have been altered.

Still, he says, "In the midst of this horrible experience, New Yorkers and Christians are standing up and not letting terrorists win. New Yorkers are rallying together. The whole country is rallying together."

Toledo and Heller say that people of different faiths are praying together. Toledo emphasizes the need for people to keep praying. "Our city is really in dire need of prayer," he says. "Just pray for the churches, that they could just seize the moment. The gospel is always opportune. We're a grieving city and nation."

Pastors, Toledo says, also need prayer.

"We're all just in shock, trying to do the best we can."

Related Elsewhere

The Christian Life Center Web site has facts on the church and pastor.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle has online information on the New York crisis and general relief.

Christianity Today's other articles on the attacks include:

Taking It Personally | What do we do with all this anger? (Sept. 14, 2001)

'Is That Thunder?' | With metal cracking at the World Trade Center, New York pastors cry out to God. (Sept. 14, 2001)

Shaken Christians Turn to Prayer | Impromptu services usher in the bereaved by word of mouth, road signs, and e-mail. (Sept. 13, 2001)

Christians Provide Comfort in the Shadow of Calamity | Still "stunned and reeling," New Yorkers seek support at prayer service. (Sept. 13, 2001)

Illinois Pastor on Fatal Flight | Jeffrey Mladenik, 43, was involved in workplace ministry, international adoption. (Sept. 13, 2001)

Communication Troubles Challenge U.S. Church Relief Agencies | Aid work continues amid atmosphere of shock, fear, and sporatic harrassment. (Sept. 13, 2001)

Reflections on Suffering | Classic and contemporary quotations for dark times. (Sept. 13, 2001)

When Sin Reigns | An event like this shows us what humans are capable of becoming—both as children of darkness and of light. (Sept. 13, 2001)

In the Belly of the Beast | Christians, calling terrorist attack "satanically brilliant," minister at epicenter of World Trade disaster. (Sept. 12, 2001)

Churches, Agencies Respond to Attacks | Leaders call for prayer, justice, and mercy. (Sept. 12, 2001)

Muslims Fear a Backlash | No matter who is responsible, observers feel a reaction will still be present. (Sept. 12, 2001)

A Wake-Up Call to Become Global Christians | The deadly attacks on America will provoke many responses, but Christians are commanded to love our neighbors. (Sept. 12, 2001)

Nation's Religious Leaders Urge Calm, Pray for Peace | Churches will maintain prayer vigils for victims and leaders. (Sept. 11, 2001)

Church Leaders Around World Deplore 'Unspeakable Horror' of Attack | Christians urged to unite in prayer as they unite in shock and denunciation. (Sept. 11, 2001)

Experts Say Spiritual Roots Will Aid in Coping With Catastrophe | Pray and connect with others, advise nation's chaplains. (Sept. 11, 2001)

Fear and Hate | In times like this, as in all other times, Christians have a responsibility to love above all else. (Sept. 11, 2001)

God's Message in the Language of Events | In the face of evil, we must focus on keeping our hearts right. (Sept. 11, 2001)
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For in-depth and continuing coverage, see The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, CNN, and Yahoo full coverage.

Yahoo has also compiled aid organization contact information, closure notification, and survivor lists.

For more Christian perspectives and responses, see various articles posted on,, and

The Text This Week, a resource for pastors, has collected sermons and reflections in response to the Sept. 11 events.

The BBC,, The Village Voice, and USA Today have photo essays of the destruction.

For video or audio coverage, see CNN, ABC News, and Sky News. The Washington Post is running a live Web cam of the Pentagon building.

The Washington Post has a list of tenants of the World Trade Center and a graphic depicting the attack.

Yahoo has also compiled aid organization contact information, closure notification, and survivor lists.

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President Bush addressed the nation on the evening of Sept. 11 (video | transcript). He declared Sept. 14, 2001 a national day of prayer. Bush first learned of the World Trade Center tragedy while preparing to speak to schoolchildren in Sarasota, Fla.. There, he asked Amercians for a moment of silence for the victims.

The Pope and Billy Graham have spoke out on the tragedy and sent out prayers to the victims and their families.

The BBC has compiled reactions from world leaders (with video). explained who responds to crisis situations.