What a privilege to interview this man of God, Rev. Emanuel Lipscomb, for the 20th anniversary of September 11 — a day from hell we never hoped to see.
During my interview with Rev. Lipscomb, a Baptist preacher, I heard his eyewitness account of the World Trade Center events. He heard the first plane hit the North Tower and saw the second plane fly into the South Tower. Here is his story:
Rev. Lipscomb traveled to New York weekly for an important nonprofit project as they helped the downtrodden. For that week’s trip, he drove to New York, picked up a contact he had dropped off earlier, which happened to be right there at ground zero, directly across the street. He actually saw the plane hit the South Tower, and before fire, police and rescue workers arrived to clear the streets and to help get folks to safety, Rev. Lipscomb joined many other citizens in aiding thousands of fleeing people. Once the fire, rescue workers and police arrived, they created a taped off safe zone across the street from the South Tower.
Afterward, Rev. Lipscomb continued in the help mode. He said he rushed inside that condo building to ask the man at the desk to call upstairs to the gentleman he dropped off earlier, asking him to hurry him downstairs. He realized the streets were becoming so crowded with people in panic mode needing assistance.
Rev. Lipscomb and the others near him helped trapped people get out of the immediate area safely. Fire workers and police arrived to help, they put up police tape to keep everyone out, when suddenly, they heard a large boom! The tower was falling. Directly underneath the building, Rev. Lipscomb said he quickly turned after hearing the boom, his friend got hit, he saw a hole in the wall, and jumped inside. Everybody around him was dead or disintegrated. Gone!
Gray ash, a black chemical storm of fire, disintegrated bodies, jet fuel, concrete and building debris filled the air with a deathly silence, instantly at ground zero. Rev. Lipscomb stayed in the hole, held his breath, gasping for air, until he felt his way, step by step, touching stairs. This was his temporary refuge. He went down to the floor underneath the stairs, to try to get some air. As people around him were choking, he thought his life would end there.
A voice told him to go to the river, which was outside to the right. He screamed to everyone to go with him to the river as God had told him, so he ran half a block west, and was blessed to find a building that did not have the chemical cloud around it, so he ran inside. It felt a little safer, since they could breathe there. In the basement of that building were 120 people.
A baby was screaming and crying, and someone said, “What do we do?” Then someone said, “Sing.” They all began to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” A working TV presented them the opportunity to see the North Tower falling, and their building began to shake.
“We thought we were gone again,” Rev. Lipscomb said.
Covered in ash, like a snowman, he asked everyone to try to calm down. The attack was finally over!
Once they got outside, both buildings had fallen, and people in boats from New Jersey came to the edge of the river to help. They were saved, taken by boat into New Jersey. Rev. Lipscomb was hosed down with water and sent by ambulance to the hospital.
From his hospital, where he remained for two weeks, he could look over and see New York, burning, Treated by teams of doctors, Rev. Lipscomb had two strokes, several heart attacks, short-term memory loss. Today, he still suffers, 20 years later.
They stayed at Ground Zero, willing to sacrifice their lives for others. These were the heroes of the World Trade Center attack. Attacked directly by terrorists themselves, those who stayed to help stood together willing to fight so others could live.
Rev. Lipscomb closed by saying, “Together we Thank God for those who survived and those who stood face to face with danger in love for others. I thank God for saving my life to be a witness to one of the worst but greatest moments in our history.”
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email email@example.com or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.