It Wasn’t Hell – PART 2
From an interview with my friend Charlie Edmond, NYPD
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
I was working the late tour—midnight to eight—the night of September 10th. Got off at 7:50 on the morning of 9/11…
My partner and I were on the Long Island Rail Road going home when the first plane hit. One of our friends called and told us, “A plane hit the World Trade Center. They’re calling it a terrorist attack.”
He didn’t have any inside information, it was just his suspicion, but he called it right. So Mark and I are on the train going home, and Mark says to me, “What are you going to do?”
“Are you kidding?” I said. “I’m going back in!”
I drove home and ran into my house just in time to see the first tower come down. I grabbed some clothes, shoved them into an overnight bag, and then kissed my wife and ran out. I drove back to Mark’s house to pick him up along with two other guys from our squad, and then together we drove to Home Depot and bought 25 pairs of leather gloves. Gloves! I can’t help but laugh now. I don’t know what we were thinking. We had about twenty guys in our squad and, I mean, we didn’t have the slightest concept of what we were driving down to. No concept at all. That’s where my mind was, you know…we’d have some gloves to help dig people out. We just had no idea.
And so the four of us drove the Long Island Expressway in. They’d shut it down to all civilians. Cops, firefighters and paramedics…they were about the only ones other than military who could get into Manhattan at that point. And you could see it on the faces of the cops who were managing traffic. You know, we’re talking 40 miles away on Long Island, and their only job is to divert traffic, but you could see such intensity in their eyes. They’re like, “Come on, come on, come on! Go, go, go!” The level was so high at that point. I mean, that was their function, and they were giving all they had for it.
When we got into Manhattan all the rules just went out the window. Everyone received orders to go here or there, but no one obeyed. Everyone went to their home precinct. You had to be with your squad. And they immediately plopped us at churches, synagogues, mosques, whatever. They put us all over everywhere trying to set up security, because they knew that someone was after us and they wanted to start locking down. But later that night they rounded us all up and marched us down to Ground Zero. And there’s about an inch or two of dust everywhere. I don’t know what it was, it must have been sheetrock dust, or something, but it looked like the moon. It was just a disaster. And there’s debris hanging everywhere. And you’re looking up as much as you’re looking around wondering what’s going to fall. And nobody knows what they’re doing. It’s just a total cluster. I mean, there’s I-beams lying all around, bent like you’re bending a straw, and here I am with my leather gloves, handing them out to everybody. “Here, here you go.” I just had no idea.
So they get us all set up. And they have a laser on one of the buildings. I guess they figured it was gonna fall. And so we agreed that if it started to fall, we’d all just run down into this tunnel (subway) and come out in Brooklyn. So that was our game plan, to run into a hole to get away from a falling building. And that’s how it was. It was nuts.
But the most surreal thing of all, and I remember this as clear as day: There’s this cobblestone road close to where we were set up, and I start hearing this clickety-clickety-clickety sound. And then this silver push cart appears— clickety-clickety—a room service cart. And two guys dressed in white and wearing chef’s hats come walking up and go, “Are you hungry?” And they had smoked salmon. And steak. It wasn’t the Waldorf, but is one of those, like, high-end hotels, and they sent these people out to help. There was just so much coming in at that point. Tents full of stuff. Cell phone batteries, ponchos and socks. Food. It was strange. It was like you walked onto the wrong set, you know? “The Tonight Show’s over there…” It just didn’t make any sense. The outpouring of help was incredible.
And so everybody’s trying to get in at this point, so we were trying to set up a perimeter to make it as safe as we could. Keep the criminals out. But all around us it was total madness. Nobody knew what they were doing. And I realize now that I should have been scared. But I wasn’t. Not all all. I knew I had this little church out on Long Island praying for me, and I wasn’t feeling any fear. I mean, I get as nervous as anybody else, and we’re out there looking at all this stuff, but I just had this peace. It was the peace of God. And I was like, if this falls we’ll run this way, but if I don’t make it, it’s okay. I just wasn’t afraid. I think God did that so that I could be support for everybody else.
One of the best feelings I had was watching the planes—the F-14’s or F-16’s—flying over Manhattan. I was like, “Whew, we’re safe!” You knew at that point, nothing’s getting to us. If they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it a different way, they’re not coming through the air. It was a secure feeling. But it got me to thinking about America. About Christians. Sometimes we get to feeling too secure. We’re all going about our happy lives, and suddenly, out of the blue, the enemy attacks. And that’s what happened. They hit the first tower. Then they hit the second tower. Then the Pentagon. And then the Christians start going, “Oh, Lord, we need you.”
I feel in my heart that it was the concerted prayers that inspired those men on that last plane to stand up. God strengthened them. He thwarted the enemy, because the enemy—he’s taking us out. He’s hitting buildings all over the place, and now the Christians all over are going, “What’s going on?” And they begin to pray. And it’s like the prayers started and that last plane didn’t reach its destination, because God intervened. He had those brave men throw themselves on the grenade for everyone else. They were heroes. God used them. But could it have been different? Would any of this have happened if the Christians in America had been awake? We were sleeping. Christians all over America, we had fallen asleep.
It’s not a game. The only reason we’ve not been hit again is the hand of God. We’re not great at stopping these guys. We’re not invincible. There was another attack planned in Brooklyn, but one of the attackers got a guilty conscience at the last minute. He ran up to a Transit cop and said, “I don’t want to do this,” and they stopped a whole subway attack. It wasn’t great research on our side that stopped it, it was the hand of God.
So I would encourage Christians to pray. To develop a closer relation with Christ. To read his Word, and to let it speak to you. To pray for our country’s protection, for our leaders, for those overseas on the front lines. I mean, you just never know when that security guard at the airport is going to check this bag or another. We need to ask God daily for a hedge of protection. We need to pray.
To be continued…
Coming November 28th, Part 3 of “It Wasn’t Hell” (with Charlie Edmond NYPD)
…I’ve heard people say, “9/11 was hell.” But for me, it wasn’t. Hell is hopeless. Down there I saw lots of hope. The outpouring of help was just unbelievable. Like I said, they came with their little cart. There was so much help they had to turn people away. That was the Christian spirit. That selflessness…No, 9/11 wasn’t hell. Christians across America awoke, and in the end, Christ was glorified. There’s still hope.
Books by Pat Patterson:
Answering the Call, Inspirational Devotions from a Tested Paramedic
Tested by Fire, A Medic-7 Novel