On Tuesday morning, September 11, pastors and staff at the churches near the World Trade Center prepared to open their doors in anticipation of a full day of activity.

Marcos Rivera, pastor of Primitive Christian Church, an Assemblies of God congregation, glanced over his right shoulder at the towers of the World Trade Center as he does every morning.

“In the neighborhood everyone seems to do this,” Rivera told Christianity Today. “We grew up with them being built and as part of our lives.”

Rivera was among the many Christian leaders who were unaware of the roles they were about to play in the aftermath of the horrific suicidal attacks by terrorists, in which more than 6,000 people are presumed to have died, the World Trade Center’s towers collapsed, a Pentagon wing was devastated, and a passenger jet crashed in Pennsylvania.

Fleeing the Inferno

As Terry Vega-Ramirez, Rivera’s executive assistant, was walking out of the subway at 8:47 a.m., she saw an airliner flying extremely low. “The plane was silvery and smaller than a big jumbo liner,” she says. “All of a sudden there was an explosion that sounded like two big booms.”

American Airlines Flight 11 had just rammed its 176,200 pounds and thousands of gallons of fuel into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Down the street from Primitive Christian, Nelson Santiago, who works as Rivera’s clerical associate, was at home ironing clothes in his living room, where he has a clear view of the towers. As he mentally reviewed his to-do list for the day, he didn’t notice the burning skyscraper.

On the street, Rivera’s secretary knew something terrible had happened. Running into the church, she burst through ...

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