Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Survivor: Sense of Urgency to Share Gospel

In July of 2004, I posted a link to a website that is dedicated to debunking the myths and wild accusations concerning 9/11. Unfortunately, conspiracy theorists abound, and many times, they just get it wrong. I think that the above website link may help to dispel falsehoods from fact. There are nine pages, but it might be worth it to take the time and go through them so that you will be more informed and able to discern truth from error.


In memory of all those who lost their lives on that terrible day, I would like to share what Joy Shepard told us at our 2004 Easter sunrise service. She is a survivor of the twin towers attack.

Joy was on the 61st floor of the second tower that was hit. At the time the first plane hit the first tower, someone came on the loudspeaker and told everyone to stay where they were. The spokesperson said that only the first tower was hit and everyone was safe in the second tower. Joy heard what she described as "a little voice" telling her to get out of the tower. She decided to ignore the spokesperson on the loudspeaker and listen to that little voice. She headed out towards the elevator. When she got there, it was very crowded, and one person said, "Come on, we have room for one more." Joy again heard that little voice to not go on the elevator. She headed towards the stairs and started down with a group of people. While they were going down, the second plane hit several floors above them in the second tower. Everyone was knocked to the ground and several tumbled down the staircase. Several were injured, but they helped each other up and continued down the stairs. Joy, being a devout Christian, started saying the Lord's prayer out loud.

Our Father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name
Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven
Give us this day
Our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and forever, Amen.

Many of the people in the group heading down the stairs joined in saying the prayer.

Next, Joy recited Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Some who knew the words joined in.

During the long trip down the stairs, the group sang, "Amazing Grace."

Sometime during their descent down the stairs, the first tower collapsed. The roar was deafening and it felt like an earthquake. The people grabbed on to whatever they could and held on for dear life.

Throughout this terribly frightening ordeal, Joy mentioned that the prayers and songs had an amazing calming effect on the group as they rushed to get out of the building. She also mentioned several times that a LOT of people were saved that day. The death of any one person, no less 3,000, is a horrible tragedy, and she wasn't saying this to lessen that fact, but she did say that from what she witnessed, the casualties could have been much more enormous.

When her group finally got out of the building, there was even more danger. The first building had already collapsed. There was blinding smoke and dust everywhere. A young man gave Joy his shirt to cover her mouth and nose so she could breathe through it. Then, he started to choke uncontrollably, so she gave him his shirt back and used her own to cover her face. There were bodies and debris falling from the sky. It was horrific. She said that a piece of concrete coming down looked like the size of a basketball until it came closer to the ground; then, the pieces grew as large as a car. She said it was a miracle that she and her group were not hit by anything that was falling from the sky.

She shared how the people that she met during this crisis have kept in touch and have traveled the country to share their stories. She believes that God spared her (and the others) for a reason; and the main reason was for her to grow in her faith and share what happened with others. She feels a sense of urgency to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone she meets. Because of her unique experience, people are more willing to listen than ever before. She believes that God is using spite of something as horrific as this tragedy turn it for good.

She believes that whether she had perished that day or not, the Lord was with her through it all. Her purpose in this life is not finished yet. But some day, her journey, just like the journey of those who died that day, will be over on this earth. And when that time comes, the Lord will take her home.

After Joy's speech, our pastor shared that it is obvious that Joy makes it her life goal to share Jesus Christ with everyone she meets. Countless people have come to the saving grace of the Lord through her story. In fact, dozens of people did just that at our sunrise service this past Easter Sunday.


An Article About Joy Shepard

Western Days Parade Grand Marshal is 9/11 survivor


An Escondido woman who escaped from the second World Trade Center tower a few minutes before it collapsed on 9/11 will be the Grand Marshal for this year’s Western Days Parade.
Joy Shepard was on the 61st floor of the second tower on the morning of Sept. 11, when the first of the hijacked airliners struck the other tower.

After 28 years of teaching, she had decided to change her career and become a financial advisor. She had arrived in New York City a few days before to begin the final three weeks of training at Morgan Stanley’s headquarters in the tower.

On Monday she went to work in high heels, but because she was uncomfortable in them, she changed into flats before going to work on Tuesday. That was one of the factors that may have saved her life.

About 9:30 a.m. they got a break in the training. Mrs. Shepard went out to the break area to get some decaf.

A young man told her, “We’ve been bombed!”

She looked out the window. She could see the Statue of Liberty, and she could see the fiery hole in the tower next to them.

“I could not believe my eyes! The PA came on and said, ‘Go back to your rooms,’ but I didn’t. I stared at the fire ball. I saw a gaping area and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought I saw an airplane tail being consumed.”

That didn’t make sense at the time, because most people then thought that a bomb had gone off in the tower.

“I just stared at it. I kept staring at it and analyzing it,” she recalls. She flashed on what had happened on her birthday in 1993. That was the day that someone drove a truck full of explosives into the World Trade Center.

She eventually wandered back to her office, stood in the door looking at her cell phone and day planner and thought; “I’ve got to go down.”

She told one of the trainers, “I’m really sorry. I can’t stay. I’ve got to get back to the ground.”

She started down the stairwell At the 44th floor she left the stairwell. The elevator stopped and someone offered to hold the door open so she could go back up. The PA came on again and repeated the announcement for people to return to their jobs.

She decided to continue down, this time through the stairwell. “If everything is all right, I’ll return,” she told herself.

The second plane slammed into the second tower while she was in the stairway.

Two women who were climbing down with Mrs. Shepard were knocked down by the impact. She kept her feet.

“When it hit, it just jolted the whole stairway. You could smell the jet fuel. A crack appeared in the wall. Smoke filled the stairwell. The skylight above us blew out of the building.”

Both women with her were wearing heels. One said she couldn’t go on.

“You’ve got to!” she told her. “I’m from California. This is like a little earthquake. You can do it. Put one foot in front of the other. We can make it.”

They heard the thunder of people entering the stairwell.

“Honey!” she told the woman. “You’ve got to get up right now. It’ll be a disaster if you don’t.”
She took her hand and they went down together.

On the way down a man, Mike, from the 84th floor, joined them. He had seen the first plane hit. He tried to persuade his co-workers to leave with him. Most of them stayed. Those who did were killed.

“We walked down together,” Mrs. Shepard recalls. “All of us. Nobody panicked. We kept each other calm. We prayed. We moved like one giant organism. Two by two all the way down the stairs.”

A young black man offered her his shirt to breathe through. She gave it back after a few minutes and told him he needed it for himself. She breathed through her blouse from then on.

They made it to the ground floor. It was dark. All the lights were off. .

Some firemen with flashlights met them. Her friend needed oxygen.

“By that time it was just Mike, the second woman and I,” she remembers. “A lot of people were trying to get through the revolving glass doors.

“Mike and I noticed that no one was going through the doors to the right. He held her hand and they both ran.”

She thought she would be OK on the ground, but it was worse than inside the building.
“People and debris were falling all around me. Wounded and torn people. It was a horrible disaster!”

Sheets of concrete fell like bombs. “ I don’t know how I was missed because I saw people being killed by concrete as big as buses. It was the grace of God that I survived.”

Mike told her: “We’re going to go north on Broadway.”

“OK, I’m with you kiddo,” she answered.

“I know a little Irish pub there. Do you want a drink?”

When they arrived he ordered a beer and she ordered ice water.

Suddenly there was a rumble and the pub shook from side to side.

“Joy,” Mike said. “Tower two is coming down.” There was a huge plume of smoke and a tidal wave of debris coming towards them.

“They are after the symbols of America. The Statue of Liberty. The Empire State Building. Let’s go to Greenwich Village. Nobody wants Greenwich Village,” he said.

They kept moving quickly, as did many. Others just stopped like deer in the headlights, and stared at the carnage.

They went to an apartment of a friend of Mike’s in Greenwich Village.

Mrs. Shepard was unhurt, except for some bruises on her left arm.

She was one of a handful from San Diego County who survived the attack. She is astounded that people want to hear her story.

“People are just amazed and I think my story had a happy ending. People like to hear happy news.”

Since September she has spoken to the journalism class at the school in San Dieguito where she taught for many years.

She’s also spoken at a Lutheran Church.

She told the school children, “There’s evil in the world, but there’s so much more good. I saw people helping people, and what was lost is a human loss, not a financial loss. If those buildings had been filled to capacity it could have been 50,000 dead.”

Her own firm lost 12 people out of 3500 employed.

Mrs. Shepard is very flattered by being named Grand Marshal. “I don’t know why I was chosen.”

She doesn’t know either why she was invited to speak to a gathering at National Heroes Week.
She told the audience, “First of all, I want you to realize, I’m not a hero. I’m a survivor. That’s the only distinction I have. The people who are your heroes are your parents because they are with you 24/7 and the teachers, the armed forces, your firemen and your police, who literally protect us and give up our lives in order to protect us.”

She remembers the firefighters who were waiting when she reached the ground floor, and who stayed at their posts with flashlights.

“I call them my golden guardian angels. They lit the way for us.”

They didn’t make it out themselves.

“I don’t think anyone thought those buildings would come down. They were magnificent buildings.”

She has a fear of heights, and that, more than anything, was probably what told her to start down when the first airplane hit, and what gave her the andrenaline rush to complete the climb down.

For several hours her husband of 43 years, Alan, and oldest son, David, thought she had perished.

Her husband had been awakened by his sister-in-law shortly after the first plane struck.

Her son, David, was driving to work when he heard the news. He turned around and returned home.

They watched TV for more than three hours, while Mrs. Shepard kept hitting the redial on a borrowed cellphone, trying to get through.

Finally she did.

Alan didn’t recognize her voice. He had already given her up for dead.

“Darling, it’s me, I made it!” she told him.

“What’s your birthday!” he demanded before he would believe her. They told her youngest son, Steven.

Another son, John, is a flight attendant living in France. He lost some of his friends on one of the three hijacked flights.

He spent the night in a cathedral, praying for his mother, until he finally got word that she was alive.

She was stranded in New York City for two days.

“I’m telling you, the way people helped each other back there. The spontaneous vigils. When the troops were coming into the city, the New Yorkers would form a parade route for them and hold up signs saying, “Welcome to our armed forces!”

A young woman from Florida offered her a car ride west to St. Louis, where she was able to book a flight out on Saturday.

During the drive to St. Louis she saw evidence of how the nation had pulled together. “We saw people waving flags. We saw American flags painted on the sides of barns.”

The plane home was filled with Marines, flying to Camp Pendleton.

Her family was waiting at Lindbergh Field as the plane landed shortly after midnight.

In retrospect, she’s glad she didn’t know just how serious things were on Sept. 11.
“At the time I was in a very calm mode, and maybe it was all those years of disaster training at the schools.”

She didn’t sleep for three nights after the experience, and really not for two months.

There were no nightmares, but when she closed her eyes she could see bodies falling.

“It’s with me. It will always be with me.” Vietnam vets tell her, “You’re a veteran, Joy. You were in a war zone.”

But she IS a survivor, and she feels that has to be for a reason.

“I’ve got a lot of living to do, and I’ve got a new lease on life. I’m going to do what I can to help people. I’m still an educator and enlighten them a little bit by how they can plan for their futures.”

Having a future of her own given back to her helps give her a unique perspective to that.


Jhn 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

1Jo 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren.

Add-on at 2:10 p.m.

On the first anniversity of 9/11, our local newspaper asked readers to send in their answers to the question, "How has your life changed since 9/11/01?"

Below is a copy of what I sent in, as well as links to what was printed in the newspaper and on the Citizenlink website.

How Has Your Life Changed Since 9/11/01?

My best friend Kelly and her family went to NYC in 2002 and visited the cleared away site of the WTC towers. She brought back a special gift for me. It is a framed photo of the huge steel cross with the American flag in the background. This symbol of Christ's sacrifice for mankind was found in the wreckage.

At the bottom of the photo are 5 men praying. This photo reminds me that every day of my life, time spent with family and friends, is a precious gift from the Lord.

As a result of that fateful day, who didn't find themselves asking, "if I were to die tonight, where would I spend eternity?"

I realized that as a Christian, I should not ever waste the opportunity to share the Gospel with anyone who might be willing to listen. This tragic and sobering event in our nation's history has led many people to seek God for an answer to the purpose of their lives.

I have given away Bibles and books to many teens and adults who need that answer. I have created a website and discussion forum at Angels Helper which is dedicated to providing timeless biblical answers to life's most important questions.

The biggest change in my personal life has been not to shy away or hide my faith, but to boldly share Christ with others.

My new life verse is Ephesians 6:20b, "Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."


***NOTE***A portion of this posting made it on a CitizenLink reader list called "Reflections from the Ashes." CitizenLink readers from across the country look back on Sept. 11, 2001 — and the truths about God's protection and love made evident in the midst and the aftermath of tragedy. Go to Citizenlink.

A portion of this posting was in the North County Times article entitled, "Lives changed in many ways by terrorist attacks." Go to NC Times.


limpy99 said...

"Let's go to Greenwich Village. Nobody wants Greenwich Village"

That's priceless.

Dani said...

Hi Christine!

Be sure to check out these two documentaries online when you get a chance:



Be sure to watch them all the way to the end.

Christinewjc said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you on the "government conspiracy" claims of those sites.

I would suggest that you read 9/11: Debunking the myths.

The more time that passes after a tragedy such as this, the more likely that conspiracy theories will abound.

You have a right to believe them if you want to, but I don't.