In this video tribute, current and former staff recount The Bowery Mission’s emergency response to the World Trade Center attacks.
At The Bowery Mission, we always remember where we were on September 11, 2001. Beginning just 20 minutes after the World Trade Center attacks, tens of thousands of New Yorkers walked, ran and wandered north past The Bowery Mission’s flagship campus where it sits on one of Manhattan’s north-south thoroughfares. Many were covered in dust. Some were bleeding.
“There were no subways running, no buses, no taxis,” recalls Ed Morgan, who was then the Mission’s CEO. “The city was deathly still.”
The Mission’s staff and residents jumped into action, setting up tables to distribute food and water, opening our doors as a place for people to stop, rest, use the restrooms and make phone calls to their loved ones. A public TV was set up in the dining hall. Chaplains began to pray with New Yorkers as they stood on the sidewalks and in the streets, looking back at the burning and crumbling buildings. The Mission filled with hundreds of people in search of a safe respite.
For more than 120 years, The Bowery Mission had served New Yorkers in their key moments of crisis and every moment in-between. But this was surely one of its darkest hours.
Relief and recovery efforts
In the weeks and months following the tragedy, The Bowery Mission saw its community come together in unity to care for one another in remarkable ways.
The Mission received an unprecedented outpouring of donations for relief and recovery, as hundreds of tractor-trailers filed into the city loaded with food and supplies. Many staff opted to live temporarily onsite, as downtown transportation had come to a halt.
“People through that time really showed that they know how to love. It resonated throughout the whole city. We just turned to love and expressed it in so many different ways.” — James Macklin, Director of Outreach
The Bowery Mission’s chapel, then under renovation, was transformed into a warehouse for food, water, masks, boots, socks and medical supplies donated to support the efforts of first responders. The Mission became an official outpost for the American Red Cross, working closely with the New York City Police Department to deliver food and supplies to Ground Zero.
Several of the Mission’s staff spent considerable amounts of time at Ground Zero and other places throughout the city making logistical arrangements for storing and delivering supplies, praying with the rescuers and offering counsel and support for family members searching for those who were lost.
“Back then, we had a big outreach truck that we would just pile everything into and take down to unload,” says Reggie Stutzman, former Chapel & Compassionate Care Director.
Meanwhile, the Mission continued to faithfully serve its own community in a time when many other agencies and services had shut down. “We had lines around the block, because many people had no other place to turn,” Morgan recalls. “There was nothing else to think of besides how we could keep serving.”
United in service
As time went on, and The Bowery Mission continued to receive a surplus of donated food and supplies, new energy was directed to serving the community through the Mission’s outreach van.
As a result of the World Trade Center tragedy, many New Yorkers had found themselves temporarily out of work — and in need of support with basic needs like food and groceries. In the six month period following September 11th, the Mission’s outreach van more than doubled the amount of meals served in the same period just a year earlier (more than 37,000 meals, up from 15,000 meals).
The Bowery Mission also temporarily obtained a second warehouse, and began disseminating excess goods to other ministries, soup kitchens and churches across the city. New partnerships were formed to provide care and pantry boxes to families who had lost jobs as a direct or indirect result of the tragedy.
“After 9/11, we got in touch with each other. New friendships and relationships developed,” says Brian Johannson, who was then the Mission’s Executive Director. “There was a spirit of ‘How can we work together?”’
“September 11th made us even more committed to this great city we all love, and even more motivated to do whatever was necessary to meet the city’s need.” — Ed Morgan, President Emeritus
Rising from the ashes
As The Bowery Mission reflects back on the events of 9/11, we are honored to have been part of the outpouring of service, care and generosity that saturated our city following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“Twenty years later, what still stands out is the heroism and courage that prevailed that day and in the aftermath, as our community responded with compassion and service.” — James Winans, President and CEO of The Bowery Mission
Even the smallest act of kindness — a hot meal, a night of shelter, a new set of clothing — is a way to honor all those lost and demonstrate the tangible and compassionate love of God that brought us together. Thank you to each of our volunteers, donors, partners and supporters for being a part of our community and making this possible.