Pastoral staffers at Trinity (Episcopal) Church Wall Street were leading prayers and hymns for terrified and shocked passers-by when the first tower at the World Trade Center collapsed. Power was cut, and many congregants fled screaming onto Broadway. Trinity's office tower shuddered; dust penetrated the building and filled the lobby. Workers evacuated children at the pre-school to the basement of the office block and handed out breathing masks. When the masks ran out, they tore towels and soaked them in water.
Firefighters arrived to lead everyone out. They streamed down Greenwich Street at the back of the office block, holding the masks or towels to their faces. When the second WTC tower collapsed behind them, they dashed for cover in doorways and under alcoves. Some eventually reached the Staten Island ferry; others were evacuated by buses.
Many churches in the New York and Washington areas-and across the country-scheduled special prayer services Sept. 11 and 12.
Denominational and ministry leaders across the country called for calm and prayer, and some cautioned against speaking or acting rashly against Muslims. President Bush emphasized prayer and quoted from the 23rd Psalm in his addresses to the nation. More than 100 representatives and senators paused for a moment of silence on the lawn of the Capitol, then sang "God Bless America."
Evangelist Billy Graham urged prayer "especially for our president and for all who advise him, that they may have divine wisdom as they respond to this insane and horrific act. If ever there was a time for us to turn to God and to pray as a nation, it is now." Pope John Paul II telegrammed President Bush expressing "my closeness in prayer for the nation."