By: Bruce R. Porter, D.Div.
—September 18, 2001, Lower Manhattan, New York City.
Seven days after the attack…
The devastation at Ground Zero was far worse than I could have imagined. Long before the wreckage came into view I could smell it. Low-hanging clouds of dust and fumes wafted on the late-summer breezes through every street and alley in a radius of several blocks. The nearly deafening roar of diesel generators, heavy equipment, and massive dump trucks coming and going with loads of wreckage blended with the clanging of metal that echoed through the tall canyons formed by dust-laden sky-scrapers.
Turning a corner at the edge of the wreckage, the smoking rubble pile finally came into view and I nearly stumbled backwards. Twisted girders and rubble from the remains of the World Trade Complex stood over twenty feet high, wedged between yet-standing but heavily damaged buildings, blocking the entire street. The fumes emanating from the pile smelled of burnt metal, plastic, and other indescribable smells. Now and then, another scent, which could only be described as rotting meat was discernible. It reeked of decomposing human remains.
At that point in time, no one knew precisely how many people actually perished when the towers fell, but it didn’t take much imagination to realize that the earthly remains of thousands of people were enmeshed in that massive field of wreckage. As I stood in the middle of the street, stunned by the magnitude of the destruction, hot tears welled up in my eyes—partly from sorrow, and partly from rage—as I contemplated the sheer evil I was beholding. The word heartbreaking didn’t do the scene justice. It was literally a gigantic churned-up cemetery, where dreams and hopes and love and human life lay buried under the twisted wreckage, spawned by demonic hatred.
Within these pages I will attempt to describe some of my personal experiences as a volunteer firefighter and Chaplain who served for several weeks at the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City beginning six days after the Islamic terrorist attacks of 9/11. My time in New York City was an eye-opening experience that has forever changed my life. As I began to write down some of my experiences however, another, much larger story began to emerge in my mind, and it took on a life of its own. Writing this book was cathartic for me, and only now, after some years for reflection, can I begin to grasp the larger issues that resulted from that attack. In some ways, this has been like awakening from a nightmare only to discover that somehow I’d stepped into an even an even worse nightmare, only this time I wasn’t sleeping.
In an effort to make sense of what I was learning, I found myself being drawn into a study of America’s history and a forensic examination of its earliest foundations. The 9/11 attack began to look more and more like a “triggering event” that set in motion even more ominous after-effects. As terrible as the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers were—with so many thousands of lives destroyed—something terrible seemed to be emerging from the smoking rubble like some kind of mythical dragon. In the decade-plus time-span since 9/11, our nation has come under an evil dark shadow.
The spectre of increasing and mostly secret government surveillance upon ordinary citizens, and the imposition of new “security” laws that threaten our basic freedoms under the Constitution and Bill of Rights are, at the very least, deeply troubling. The rise of uber-progressive secularists to positions of political power, aided and abetted by leftist-progressive media, has created the “perfect storm” for America’s destruction.
The farther back you can look,
the farther forward you are likely to see.
To me, the big question is; “How did we get here?” To understand how we got “here,” we need to know where we were. If we can discover where we started from as a nation—particularly related to the spiritual and normative societal paradigms of early Americans—it just might be possible for us to find some sort of “reset” button, and retrace our way back to better times. During my research, I was delighted to discover some of the historical Christian foundations that were so wisely laid by our nation’s Founding Fathers. Along the way, I also learned that those foundations were not merely the product of human genius, but were profoundly and unmistakably influenced by the guiding hand of divine Providence in concord with the principles found in the Hebrew/Christian bible. I’m now convinced that the erosion and corruption of those early foundations are the prime reason that 9/11 happened in the first place. Perhaps if those founding principles can be rediscovered and embraced by our people, they may yet save our future.
This book wrestles with some of the extremely serious and sobering underlying spiritual and moral problems we are facing—problems that threaten to drag our country down into an Orwellian nightmare.
For those unfamiliar with George Orwell’s classic book, 1984, I offer the following quote which summarizes the main theme of the book.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.
I’d like to think that the major reason this book exists is because God is now moving upon the hearts and minds of many others besides myself who are raising the alarm and calling our fellow citizens to respond to the clear and present danger we face. If this is true, then I must believe there is hope for us, for God is stirring people to action.
Perhaps I’m overly ambitious, but I’m going to attempt to bring two seemingly opposite lines of thought into a practical and understandable harmony—those being—the responsibility of man and the overarching Providence of God. In theological circles, there has always been a certain tension between these two seemingly polar opposites. I believe both are biblically justified, meaning, that we who are His people are called by God to be people of action, zealous for good works. At the same time, we are equally called into His rest, trusting God to bring about outcomes that please Him, even as we labor with diligence.
On the one hand, I will describe some the events of the 9/11 terrorist attack as seen through my eyes and heart. I will try to take you into ground zero to see what I saw, smell what I smelled, and feel what I felt. Using this as a platform, I will also tell you what I see happening to our country as a result of what happened on that fateful day, and how great and momentous changes in our government are occurring right before our eyes. I will also share some things I learned about our past to help bring things into perspective. I will conclude by promoting what I believe is a prudent response on our part to address the crisis at hand.
Throughout the book, I will endeavor to place all these events within the larger frame-work of God’s eternal plans and purposes, and attempt to show the overarching hand of Almighty God’s Providence as it operates right in the midst of, and in the smallest details, of everything that has ever happened, is happening, or ever will happen.
In other words, I will try to explore the profound theological tension that exists between human initiatives to respond appropriately to events in our world, mirrored by the parallel awareness that God is ultimately in complete control of all things at all times—even when it doesn’t seem so to our limited understanding. In doing so, I will try to show that all our obedience and efforts are yet another mysterious part of God’s larger dealings with His universe.
This is admittedly an ambitious effort, and some of what I’m going to share may make you dizzy at times. Please tighten your seat belt, stow all your electronic gear, (unless you’re using it to read this book) and keep your arms and heads inside the time-machine at all times. The ride has an end, and it will all be good.
A Date That Will Live In Infamy
…a date which will live in infamy,
the United States of America
was suddenly and deliberately attacked.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
U.S. Congress December the 8th, 1941
My home is situated nearly 8,000 feet above sea level in the tranquil foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. With pristine snow-capped mountain peaks framed by dark-blue high altitude skies, and fresh alpine air blowing among tall ponderosa, evergreen, and aspen trees. Deer, elk, and the occasional bear wanders through our property, and it’s easy to imagine on most days that all’s right with the world. That perception radically changed on September 11, 2001.
In the early morning hours of that fateful day, I was taking a leisure shower after a peaceful night of sleep. I recall humming a tune while enjoying my shower with the smell of scented soap caressing my body. My reverie was abruptly interrupted when my wife Claudia suddenly burst into our bathroom shouting in a frantic voice. I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying at first over the noise of the water. A little annoyed, I yelled back through the shower door, “What is it!?”
“Something terrible has happened in New York!” she yelled. “They think it’s a terrorist attack! You’ll want to see this!” She had been watching the morning news, and I could tell from the tone of her voice that this was serious. She abruptly turned and ran back out to the television in our living room. My senses now fully alert, I froze for a moment. Terrorist attacks in the Middle-East wasn’t anything new, but here in America?
Flipping off the water and jumping out of the shower, I grabbed a towel and dried as quickly as I could. Without bothering to dress, I threw on a bathrobe and ran into the living room with water still dripping. Plopping down on the couch, my eyes fell on televised images of the World Trade Towers in Lower Manhattan, New York City. One of the buildings was belching gigantic plumes of smoke. A huge, oddly shaped hole about three-quarters of the way up the side of the building was easily discernible, and bright orange flames could be seen belching out of the shattered windows near the impact point.
A voice-over reporter was excitedly explaining that just minutes before, a commercial airliner flying at rooftop level across downtown Manhattan had slammed into the north face of one of the World Trade Towers.
The live video feed zoomed in and out on the structure. To our horror, we could clearly see images of people leaning out of the shattered windows just above and below the gaping hole in the side of the building. Black smoke and massive flames billowed out from behind them. Some were frantically waving what looked like sheets or coats, desperately crying out for help that would never arrive in time. As a volunteer firefighter, I did a quick mental calculation as to how hot those flames were, and knew that the people anywhere near them were being roasted alive by the radiated heat.
As we watched, the TV cameras suddenly caught the distinct outline of another aircraft approaching at low altitude in the background. We barely had time to gasp before this second aircraft screamed in at high-speed and slammed into the South Tower! Instantly, a blast of fire and debris erupted out of the north side of the building as the plane disintegrated, and its fuel tanks exploded.
For several seconds we just sat there staring at the television in stunned silence. As I recall, even the news anchor went speechless for several seconds as the scene unfolded live before the world. Any lingering doubts about whether or not this was merely an accident vanished in that moment. I remember jumping to my feet in shocked bewilderment, shouting to no one in particular, “This is definitely a terrorist attack!”
For the rest of the day, we remained transfixed in front of the TV as frantic reporters near the scene tried to piece together what was unfolding in real-time before the eyes of the world. From the shattered windows high up on the towers, thousands of pieces of paper could be seen raining down like slowly falling snow to the streets below.
Compounding horror upon horror, we began to see something far more disturbing beginning to fall from the towers. Scores of men and women could clearly be seen jumping from blown-out windows as they desperately tried to escape incineration by the searing flames and choking smoke near the holes in the sides of the buildings.
Authorities later estimated that over two hundred people chose to jump rather than be roasted alive. It was heartbreaking to imagine the terror and desperation these people must have experienced as they leaped out into empty space to escape the flames and fell for several seconds to certain death. Thinking about it later, I wondered what I would have done in that same situation and concluded that I would likely have done the same thing, for mercifully, it would be an instant painless death upon impact.
Then, at approximately 7:00AM Mountain Time, we saw the South Tower suddenly collapse into a gigantic billowing cloud of dust and pulverized concrete. Televised images of terrified people running through the streets of New York to escape the scalding-hot, choking clouds of pulverized concrete and debris billowing out through Lower Manhattan’s canyon-like streets could never be forgotten. We hardly had time to process these images when twenty-eight minutes later, the North Tower also collapsed in a nearly identical way. I remember thinking at the time how odd it was that both towers came down in nearly the same mirror-image way, and it seemed amazing that such incredibly engineered structures could collapse so easily. I quickly dismissed the thought, concentrating rather on the unfolding human tragedy and the suffering we were witnessing. Only much later would some rather unsettling questions re-emerge about the many strange events surrounding this tragedy and how it could have happened in the first place.
After the towers collapsed, a massive cloud of dust and debris blasted through Lower Manhattan, blanketing everything in a gray-white powder. Far from being a cool blast of air, however, this pyroclastic cloud was extremely hot. A week later after arriving on-scene, I personally saw scorched cars parked over a block away with tires melted, or burned to a crisp, and the plastic coating on a chain-link fence melted from the intense heat. The billowing column of smoke and debris shot high into the sky over Lower Manhattan, and was mercifully blown eastward by the winds toward the ocean. Televised images of terrified people frantically running ahead of the debris cloud reminded me of some sort of “End of the World” movie, but this was all too real. Many people suffered terrible burns and cuts; with their bodies caked with the thick dust that darkened the sky and made breathing nearly impossible.
September 11, 2001 was clearly “a date which will live in infamy.” Ironically, those words were uttered nearly 60 years before by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December the 8th, 1941, before a special joint session of Congress in response to the attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii the day before. Roosevelt’s words now seem hauntingly prophetic and apropos to what we were experiencing on 9/11:
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked.”
On that fateful Sunday morning in 1941, millions of our parents and grandparents stopped everything and gathered around radios in living rooms, stores, and taverns, to hear the unfolding news of the Pearl Harbor attack. Once again, in 2001, millions of Americans sat once again transfixed—this time in front of televisions—in much the same way they did with their radios. Together, we watched the breaking news of the terror attacks against our nation and struggled desperately to comprehend what was unfolding, and what it might mean. Here, in 2001 yet again––on our own soil––our nation was under attack.
Ironically, like the Japanese, the Islamo-terrorists had overplayed their hand. Instead of intimidating us, a collective sense of outrage erupted in America, and a desire for justice. Just as the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941 was the catalyst for America’s entrance into the war with the Japanese, so—at least for a time—Americans wanted to go to war against those who were responsible for 9/11.
Following the Pearl Harbor attack, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Japanese Fleet which carried out the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was portrayed in the award-winning 1970 film, Tora! Tora! Tora! as saying;
I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
I could find no solid proof that Admiral Yamamoto actually spoke those precise words as depicted in the film, but he did in fact express nearly the same thoughts in a personal correspondence to Ogata Taketora on January 9, 1942.
A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.
Admiral Yamamoto’s concerns were not unwarranted. Almost overnight, multiplied hundreds of thousands of America’s young men and women reported to military recruitment centers across America to volunteer. Munitions factories were rapidly brought on-line to produce weapons and ammunition. Many car manufacturing plants retooled their assembly lines to build tanks and warplanes. My own mother worked at a munitions factory in St. Louis, Missouri, and my father and nearly all my uncles volunteered for the Army and shipped off to the South Pacific to fight.
Some conspiracy theories have arisen, speculating that key persons within the Roosevelt administration—perhaps even the President himself—knew in advance of Japan’s plans to attack Hawaii, but did nothing to prevent it. I’ve read some of the evidence and documents, and although I’m reluctant to admit it, some of it seems compelling. I’ve often wondered if FDR and others in his cabinet might have speculated that a dramatic attack on U.S. territory would be just what they needed to justify a formal declaration of war and motivate the American people to confront what was known for some time to be a growing expansionist threat by the Imperial Japanese. It seems entirely plausible… and disturbing.
Some have speculated that the 9/11 attacks might also have been foreseen and “allowed” to happen in order to manipulate Americans into policies and directions that would further the agendas of certain persons within our own government. As implausible as this might seem to some, historical experience certainly supports the possibility. As far back as ancient history, national leaders have often implemented “false flag” strategies and disinformation to manipulate their subjects into certain courses of action. It happens all the time in business and personal interactions. Why would it seem so far-fetched that modern governments and rulers would use such deceptive ploys as well? Most Americans are reluctant to embrace conspiracies, but this is changing as new and credible information about what happened on 9/11 becomes more readily available.
The memory of Pearl Harbor is no longer vivid in the collective consciousness of most people in this present generation. Our public education system has successfully minimized the event in history studies, and in some cases, even gone so far as blaming the United States itself for the attack under as twisted rubric of “political correctness.” In the same way, since the 9/11 attacks, it seems that most people have put the event almost completely out of mind. In many schools, students are taught that the 9/11 attack was actually brought on by American imperialism, greedy exploitation of natural resources such as cheap oil, American arrogance and disrespect for the “poor, downtrodden” Islamo-Fascists!
A few days after the attack, some internet videos came out showing people across the Middle East dancing in the streets for joy, ecstatically celebrating the murder of thousands of Americans while shouting praises to their moon-god, Allah. They jubilantly gave each other gifts and candy. Initially, I had to fight a strong emotion of anger and outrage when I saw this, and wanted to see someone suffer some major payback. I knew in my heart that not everyone in Islamic countries were happy about what happened, and when the news media shows up, many people will “perform” for the camera, especially if their lack of enthusiasm might be noticed by more zealous America-haters who might be watching.
Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.
Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1
by William Shakespeare
Millions of Americans felt outraged, and tens of thousands of our young people rushed to military recruitment centers to do just as my own father and uncles did in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack; “line-up, sign-up”, and unleash unholy hell against those who attacked us. In retrospect, however, I can’t help wondering if we were somehow being “handled” by someone who wanted us to spend our treasure, blood, and the lives of our youth fighting some sort of “war against terror.” (More on this thought later…)
Ironically, on that very morning I was preparing to drive my son to Denver International Airport to fly to New York City on his way to England for a Christian missions trip. Within minutes after the attack, however, President Bush ordered all U.S. airspace closed, and all in-flight aircraft to land immediately at the nearest airport. No one was traveling by commercial air that day, or in the week that followed. Tens of thousands of passengers found themselves stranded at unintended destination airports. I whispered a prayer of thanks that my son was not already flying that morning.
For the next week, the only things flying around the nation were rumors and tightly controlled emergency and military aircraft patrolling over our cities to provide whatever protection they could. It reminded me of the old saying about; “shutting the barn door after the horses escaped.”
The news reported that additional hijacked planes might be inbound for other targets.
News reports a short time later said that the hijackers had used common box cutters to attack air crews and take over the cockpits of four aircraft on 9/11. We also got reports that during those first tense hours, as thousands of passenger aircraft were being directed to land immediately at the nearest airport by frantic air traffic controllers, patrolling American fighter aircraft were issued standing orders to shoot down any aircraft that failed to comply immediately with air traffic control orders. Thankfully, we were spared the additional heartbreak of hundreds of innocent air travelers being blown out of the sky by our own military pilots.
Throughout the day of the attack, the bad news just kept going from bad to worse. The news media reported that American Airlines Flight 77 had also been hijacked and slammed like a gigantic missile into the Pentagon at 7:37AM Mountain Time. A bit later, at 8:03AM, another airliner––United Flight 93––had crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. According to official reports, United 93 was headed for yet another target somewhere in the Washington DC area, possibly the White House or the Congressional buildings.
In the months that followed, we also heard awe-inspiring stories of courage demonstrated by some of the passengers on United 93. According to reports, some of the passengers learned from friends and relatives on the ground (via on-board Airfones) that several other aircraft had been commandeered and being used as guided missiles against targets on the ground. According to the official narrative, instead of passively allowing their airplane to be used as a missile to kill more innocent people on the ground, a few heroic passengers decided to attack the hijackers and attempt to regain control of their aircraft.
Based on in-flight voice recordings reportedly recovered later from the crash site, and people conversing with some of the passengers using Airfones, some of these passengers nearly succeeded in breaking into the cockpit in a desperate effort to regain control of their aircraft. However, in the final seconds, the terrorists realized they were about to be defeated––and rather than being taken alive––deliberately plunged the airplane inverted into the ground at near-supersonic speeds while shouting praises to their god, Allah.
I am deliberately using the qualifying word “reportedly” in the above paragraphs. This is because there are many unanswered questions regarding the actual events that occurred that terrible day. Some of the “official” explanations are, frankly, highly suspicious. I’m not going to tackle the conspiratorial elements of this event thoroughly in this book for one important reason. As I already said in the foreword, it matters little what individual minions of evil did that day. What’s important is that evil agents, operating in various capacities, are to be blamed. I don’t believe the Islamic hijackers on-board those aircraft were the only terrorists “on the job” that day. There must have been a large supporting cast of trainers, financiers, and other fanatics behind them. That seems certain. My focus is to try to lay the axe to the root of the source of ALL evil that animates people to commit such atrocities.
Certainly, further investigation as to what role possible insiders within our own government might have had in allowing—or perhaps even worse—participating in the 9/11 attack should be encouraged. The truth must and will be pursued and exposed in the end. I have no doubts that eventually the truth will be brought to light, and those responsible brought to justice.
A Long Horrible Movie
Throughout the day we obsessed over the televised details of the unfolding attack . Our youngest daughter was five-years-old at the time, and she wandered hardly noticed in and out of the living room. We were so preoccupied, that none of us paid much attention to how she was reacting. After awhile, she came into the living room and blurted out; “Are you guys going to watch that movie all day?!” She startled us. In her young mind, the news we were watching was some sort of scary movie. Her usual Winnie the Pooh, or Barney and Friends videos were far more interesting to her, and she just couldn’t comprehend why we kept watching something so awful for so long.
Later we noticed that she hadn’t made any appearances in awhile, and we became alarmed. Calling to her and looking around the house, we finally found her hiding under her bed; clearly frightened by the “scary movie” we were obsessing about. In her own way, I think our little girl expressed what every one of us were feeling that day. We all wished we could crawl under that bed and hide from the nightmares of that day, turn off the TV, and go back to the way things were before. However, we all knew there was no going back. Not after today.
Life in America—as we had known it—changed after that day. The nation was in shock, and to a great extent, our collective sense of security had vaporized. The world now seemed darker and more sinister. Evil plunged a cruel knife into our republic’s heart—and twisted it.
Table of Contents
Chap 1: Date in Infamy
Chap 2: Response-Ability
Chap 3: Into An Earthly Hell
Chap 4: Welcome to the Pile
Chap 5: Brothers in Grace
Chap 6: Homeland Insecurity
Chap 7: War On Terror?
Chap 8: Who ARE We?
Chap 9: Crash Course
Chap 10: Can Nations be Hijacked?
Chap 11: Foot-rubs and National Destiny
Chap 12: Faith of our Fathers
Chap 13: Upon What Are We Sworn?
Chap 14: America: Bound to a Covenant?
Chap 15: The Quality of Mercy
Chap 16: Dreams From My Founders
Chap 17: Borders? What Borders?
Chap 18: The Real Enemy
Chap 19: Recapturing Hope (short)
Chap 20: Crawling Out of the Rubble
Chap 21: The Long March Back to America
Chap 22: How Do We Now “Roll”?
Chap 23: Big Messes, Little Brooms