New York, New York 2001
9/11 - Ten Years Later
In October of 2001, Ken took his
cross and headed to New York city.
The nation had just been through a
horrendous attack and he went to
offer comfort and counsel to those in
this great city. As we come to the
10th anniversary of 9/11, we look
back on the journal Ken kept of that
time. Join him as he journeys up and
down the streets of New York,
witnessing to the love and healing of
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and
from the Lord Jesus Christ!

Thursday, October 25, 2001   
Today my good friend and Sunday school teacher, Rex Russell, and I flew to New
York City. We checked into our hotel and went outside to try to get our bearings.
This proved more difficult than we thought. We eventually decided to take a subway
down to lower Manhattan to see Ground Zero for ourselves and to determine if we
would be able to get the cross there. We popped our heads above ground seven or
eight blocks from Ground Zero. After some momentary confusion, we just began to
follow the flow of people. It seemed everyone was gravitating in that direction. It was
very windy and beginning to get dark. About six blocks away it became apparent that
we were headed in the right direction. The air was filled with particles of ash and we
could already smell the acrid odor.

As we came to within a couple of blocks, it became very
confusing. Although we did not know it at the time, this
was the very first day people were allowed to come this
close to Ground Zero. We certainly did not want to
break any rules, or go where we were not permitted,
but early on it became clear that hard and fast rules
were not yet established. There were hundreds of
people milling about and policemen and barricades
on every corner. Some policemen said one thing and
others said another. At some checkpoints, policemen
posed in pictures, while at others they would not allow
people to take pictures at all. It was easy to see there
were people there from all over America, as well as
many New Yorkers seeing the devastation for the first
time. People were largely silent as they stared between
buildings for glimpses of the scene.

Eventually we wound up on a sidewalk near
Trinity Church, less than a hundred yards from
Ground Zero. Here, hundreds of people milled
about with firemen and policemen. A chain-link
fence had become a makeshift memorial, with
flowers and candles. By this time it was getting
dark, the glaring lights at the site made
everything seem even more surreal. I can say
from my standpoint, having seen it dozens of times on the news and then standing
there staring at it in person, it was still impossible to grasp. Somehow your eyes
survey the scene, but your mind refuses to believe that it is real.

There were sheets attached to the fences where people were encouraged to write
their thoughts. There were, of course, thousands of messages from people all over
America and indeed, the world. But my eyes fell upon a specific message scrawled
with a Marks-A-Lot in large letters—“THERE ARE NO WORDS.” And I have to say
this captures it perfectly. We determined that we would be able to get the cross there
physically if the police did not intervene. After some time, we found the subway
station and made our way back to our hotel near Times Square.

The Narrow Way on Broadway!

Friday, October 26, 2001
We prayed in our room this morning; in a new place and situation it is always a bit
unsettling to think how people will react. But after having done this for three years, I
am almost completely immune to people’s reaction. We then took the cross
downstairs on the sidewalk in front of our hotel, and put it together. I lifted the cross
to my shoulder, in Jesus’ name, and started toward Times Square, which was only a
block away. Just as I reached the beginning of Times Square, we found ourselves
surrounded by a group of construction workers, gaping at us incredulously. I
approached three of them and one of them quickly walked away. The two remaining
turned out to be from Ireland. One of them was named Brian, and even if he didn’t
understand it, I could tell he seemed mesmerized at the sight of a life-sized wooden

From the first moment I spoke to him, Jesus drew my heart to him. It’s hard to explain,
but sometimes I feel the tender love of the Lord Jesus Christ for a person.
Sometimes we just obediently talk to people, and no special feeling occurs. But then
others, like this moment with Brian, are truly extraordinary. And you perceive that the
love and compassion flowing out of your heart for a person you have only met a
minute or two ago, is not coming from your own heart but directly from the heart of
their Savior. He knows everything about them, the very number of hairs on their
head, and cares for them infinitely. I cannot say this happens every time I go out with
the cross, but what a thrill it was that this happened with the very first person I spoke
with in New York.

Brian was tall and thin and had on dirty coveralls and big work gloves. He had
reddish-blond hair, big friendly eyes, and a ready smile. He seemed slightly awkward
and embarrassed, but I could tell he really wanted to talk. I could tell from the posture
of the work crew they were on some sort of break, so I felt liberty to talk with him for
several minutes. He listened intently as I spoke about the person of Jesus and what
had happened on the cross. Even though I was speaking to Brian, I knew the whole
work crew was listening to every word. Finally, I could tell their break was over and
the crew started milling about and picking up their tools. I gave many of them
literature, including Brian.

Rex and I started on Times Square and intended to walk all the way down Broadway,
back to lower Manhattan and Ground Zero. The weather was chilly, but pleasant.
And of course we didn’t walk far before we were again conversing with a man named
Edwin from South America. The sidewalk was covered in scaffolding and crammed
with people, so it was pretty difficult to not hit anybody. We reached a block with a
bus lane and some open area so I thought it would be a good time for Rex to carry
the cross. I stuck it on his shoulder, grabbed his camera, and ran a few yards ahead
to take his picture. What I had not realized at that moment was that he wasn’t sure if
he was quite ready. He told me later he felt like three hundred thousand eyes
immediately focused on him. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is as used to this
as I have become. But he did great and identified himself with our glorious Savior in
one of the world’s most crowded cities.

We walked and walked and talked and talked. So many interesting people, that I can
scarcely remember to include. A Muslim named Ali-din and a Jewish man named
Abraham. I must admit I can’t remember many of the people we spoke with this day.
But one in particular stands out for both Rex and me. We started speaking with a
man about 30 years old on some kind of work bicycle. His name was Bernardo. He
was an entrepreneur, who had invented this incredible apparatus that fits on the side
of a mountain bike and can carry up to five hundred pounds of cargo. In big cities,
full of bumper-to-bumper traffic, a lot of courier services and street vending is done
by bike.

We asked him where he was on September 11th and his impressions of the day. He
immediately became very somber and said, “I should be dead. I was scheduled to
meet someone at the underground station under the World Trade Center at exactly
nine a.m. But I was running late and didn’t make the appointment. I was on another
train about twenty minutes later, when they stopped our train and said there had
been some emergency and we could not proceed any further. So we just waited
underground for the longest time, not knowing what was going on. Finally, we were
allowed to continue to the next station and exit the train. So once I got above ground
we went into a store where everyone was standing around a TV. Only then did I
realize how close I had come.”

He was extremely open as we talked about Jesus. Although there is no way I can
know for sure, I doubt he would have been open before September 11th. But I think
his brush with death had made him start thinking. Bernardo was a bit of a character
and a real thinker. He had well-thought out views on many subjects and they ran
close to the surface. We spoke with him for more than an hour. It was very obvious
he knew very little about the person of Jesus Christ and His gospel. As we told him
the things that Jesus had done and said, and especially about the cross, this
ferocious intellectual who did not mind voicing his opinion, became as meek as a
lamb. He listened intently about Jesus, the most incredible person who ever walked
the face of the earth. Although we were not able to lead him to Christ, he gladly
accepted my New York tract and my booklet “Answers to Life’s Deepest Questions,”
and I’m very sure he has encountered the irresistible carpenter from Nazareth. I have
great hope I will see him in heaven.

Another thing was going on while we were absorbed in talking to Bernardo. The
temperature was plunging. It must have dropped twenty degrees in that one hour.
And a gusty, thirty-mile an hour wind went right through us. Rex and I were ecstatic
as we walked away from Bernardo, but we both noticed how stiff and tired we were.
We had not really dressed for this kind of cold and we were both feeling its effect.
We had also talked to so many people along the way that it was getting close to dark
and we knew we could not make it to Ground Zero this day. We had walked 22
blocks and spoken to a steady stream of New Yorkers. We decided to call it a day
and headed back.

Ground Zero  

Saturday, October 27, 2001
We took the three pieces of the cross, strapped together, and a backpack full of
literature, jumped on a subway and headed for Ground Zero. We weren’t sure if they
would actually let us into the crowded areas near the site with the cross. We walked
past numerable police checkpoints and no one ever tried to stop us. I spoke with
many people, the first of which was a journalist who lives only five blocks from
Ground Zero. He was deeply affected by this tragedy. I sensed I was speaking to
someone who had seen many things and was kind of jaded about life. Once again I
felt I was speaking with a person who probably would not have listened to me on
September 10th. He was extremely interested in my cross and took all sorts of
pictures from different angles to get Ground Zero in the background. I think we
spoke for three quarters of an hour and I got to speak freely about faith in Jesus
Christ. He gladly took my literature and told me about his website where I might find
the pictures he had taken.

                                                                I spoke with a man from Tibet, whose
                                                                name I cannot remember. At one point I
                                                                found myself on a busy sidewalk.
                                                                There were people selling little flags
                                                                and ribbons and groups passing out all
                                                                sorts of things. I stood for the longest
                                                                time, up against a fence, just passing
                                                                out the tract I had written about
                                                                September 11th to the throng as it was
                                                                moving by. Rex and I were still at
                                                                Ground Zero as night fell and it was
                                                                very cold again. Everything about
                                                                being there seems surreal. I found
                                                                myself carrying on a deep, personal
conversation with two people in full gas masks. I was witnessing to them and they
were answering back with muffled voices that sounded like Darth Vader. Even
though I could not see their faces, Jesus could see their hearts and they seemed
very open and interested about Him. Scarcely anyone turned down my literature in
New York.

A short time later, Rex and I encountered a peculiar young man named Jory. He was
probably in his early twenties. He had long hair and was into Yoga and New Age. His
views about spiritual things were weird and extreme, to say the least. Mostly he
wanted to talk about “energy sources.” He spoke of a pilgrimage to India and a
frenetic ritual where the Hindus were burning people’s bodies and chanting and
screaming “Rom, Rom, Rom.” Rex asked him how he felt being there and he
indicated to us it was one of the highlights of his life. We asked him his opinion about
Jesus and received an equally bizarre response. But as we spoke more about the
person of Jesus, he reluctantly had to acknowledge the uniqueness and sturdiness
of the Christian faith. We spoke with him at length and got into some pretty personal
areas about his life. While we certainly can’t say he converted, we know the
awesome power of the gospel and appreciate any of you who would pray for him.

Earlier, near the very beginning on the perimeter,
we had an incredible conversation with a young
man named Jamal. And now, at a completely
different place hours later, he saw us and came
up to us immediately. He was genuinely excited
to have encountered us a second time and ran
and got a friend and introduced her to us. After
talking to us a while he asked if he could put the
cross on his shoulder with his friend and we all
took pictures. Of course, the mood around
Ground Zero is solemn, overwhelming, and
depressing. Somehow there was a brief moment
of joy between the four of us around the cross.

It was late in the evening after speaking with more people that Rex and I tore
ourselves away. We were freezing, stiff, and exhausted, but it was a great day of
bringing hope and peace to dozens of people who seemed to be searching for just
those things. Rex flew home the next afternoon and what a blessing it was to have
him along to start this trip. He later told our Sunday school class his overall
impression of what it was like to go out with the cross. “I felt like almost all the people
we were talking to that their closest connection to the gospel of Jesus was a third
generation, Catholic grandmother. I think it would be safe to say that the chances of
any of them stumbling into the back door of a church was remote. So being able to
go out and talk to them about Christ was an awesome experience.”  

Homeless in New York!

Monday, October 29, 2001
Today was an awesome day! In the morning, I went for a prayer walk, but it was a
challenge for me to pray on Times Square surrounded by thousands. I left my hotel
about 11:30 with the cross. I walked 7th Avenue to Central Park. I had a good time
on the way speaking to people from several nations including Martinique and
Bangladesh. I also encountered a construction crew on their lunch break. They were
New Yorkers all the way. They were big mouthed and brash and looked as tough as
nails. In their hard-hats, they appeared to be the kind of no-nonsense
northeasterners who could never be touched with the gospel. But I got them all
laughing and gained a rapport with them and gave them all tracts.

At Central Park South, I met two Israelis who had only been in New York a couple of
years. One was named Daniel, and the other was very reticent and kept drifting away
so I didn’t get his name. But not Daniel! He was super open and friendly and gladly
listened as I talked about the person of Jesus! We spoke for a while and he took a
tract gladly. I gave him two and told him to see if he could persuade his friend to take

I entered the park and pressed deeper in. It was confusing with paths running every
direction. I talked to a few people as I walked about a mile into the park. Then, sitting
on a bench, I met a friendly man of 39, named Leonard. He looked Jewish, although
he wasn’t, with a thin face, big round brown eyes, and a thin black beard. He was
from New Mexico, and was very well spoken and humble. He was more intelligent and
articulate than probably 90% of the people I speak with all over the world. He was an
artist and he was selling small pastel pictures he had drawn that were truly beautiful.
He also told me he had been in New York City ten months to pursue an art career.
Things had not gone as he had hoped and he was now homeless. He looked clean
and neat and showed no tell-tell signs of alcohol or drug use. When I lived in
Germany as a missionary in 1984 & 85 we worked in rehab & street ministry. I have
worked with many homeless people and addicts and I know what to look for. At the
risk of sounding disparaging, so many of them are such blatant and ineffective con
artists. Leonard was different.

He told me in great detail of his conversion to Christ, and he knew the Bible very,
very well. I could tell by the terms he was using, he truly understood the basic
message of the New Testament. I believe he really was saved. I must admit here in
the USA, I don’t believe 90% of those who tell me they are a Christian. Because I can
tell from their speech, they have no real concept of saving faith. Even though I totally
believe he was a Christian, I sensed he was very, very discouraged and had never
been discipled. I gave him one of the follow-up books we had brought and shared a
lot of scriptures with him to encourage him in his walk and basic discipleship.

After a long while, a van pulled up from some sort of homeless outreach from the
city. They offered us both a sack lunch. I told them I didn’t want to take the lunch
from someone who truly needed it. They assured me they had plenty for the day. I
think I was so closely identified with these homeless that the shelter folks didn’t
believe me when I told them I was not homeless. To make a long story short, I spent
about five hours with this one man. I just could not pull myself away. I felt such a real
presence of Jesus and His compassion filling my heart like an unquenchable river. I
must admit this rarely happens when I’m with the homeless because they usually only
want money. But Leonard was the opposite in every way. In fact, in the first 30
seconds I was with him, he gave me a box of raisins. I tried to talk him out of giving
them to me. He also wanted to give me an apple, but I managed to persuade him to
keep it. In fact he never asked me for anything.

It never ceased to amaze me as we talked on and on how well versed this man was
over every subject we spoke of. After a while another man out walking his dog came
to join our conversation. He told us he was jogging over a hill above us and saw the
cross and was drawn to it. His name was Jose and he was half Jewish and half
Latino. Because of this, he said growing up he was very confused about God. He
talked with us for about an hour. He was already a believer and told us of how he too
had been down and out in this city, and how he got on his knees and gave the
situation to Jesus Christ. He then told us how God gave him a good job, a decent
car, and even a new place to live in Queens. He quietly encouraged Leonard, and
then went on his way.

I really can’t find words to explain why I spent four or five hours with this one
homeless man. He kept saying, “I’m sorry I talk so much, I’m keeping you from talking
to other people.” But I didn’t feel that way. I only felt the intense love of the Savior for
this lonely, discouraged, if not lost, sheep. He was downcast and confused about his
homeless situation. In the end, he wanted to feel the cross on his shoulder. He was
frail and I could tell he could hardly lift it. I prayed for him and he prayed with me. I
finally pulled myself away.

I spoke with a few more people including two more construction workers, who were
erecting bleachers for the New York City Marathon that would take place in a few
days. As I started back through the park, two things happened. Number one, it was
further back to Central Park South, where I had entered, than I realized and it was
more complicated than I anticipated. And, number two, on Sunday we switched back
from Daylight Savings Time. I didn’t really think of these details and it got dark on me
while I was still in the park and I got lost. I didn’t panic, but I knew I was not emerging
where I had entered and since I had lost my sense of direction, all these canyons of
skyscrapers look alike. I didn’t have a clue where I was. I emerged somewhere in
Central Park West. I stopped and asked two teens, and it gave me a chance to
witness to them and give them a tract. (Because I got lost, I hope they’ll be found!) I
eventually got my bearings.

Next, I found myself witnessing to a very interested horse carriage driver. She looked
like a gypsy. But just after it got interesting, someone hailed her carriage and she
had to go and take them on their ride. But she happily took a tract. Another stocky
man heard me talking to her and approached right after she left. With a thick New
York accent, he said, “You gotta another one dem papers there for me?” I said,
“Sure!” and chatted happily with him as I got one out of my cargo pocket. The
second I handed it to him, his face turned dark and evil. With monumental contempt,
he tore it up into pieces and threw it into the street with an exaggerated, violent
throw. Then he stalked off, saying that was what he thought of my Jesus. He had
turned sour so fast that it totally caught me off guard and he was gone before I could
say anything.

I found Broadway, but it was crowded and because it was dark, I had trouble walking
the cross through the crowd. It was a good day and I felt tired but happy. I ate a late
dinner and went to bed.

They wanted me gone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
The maids knocked on the door while I was trying to pray and get ready for the day. I
just could never get back on track. I am pressed to explain why but this day was a
disappointing wash out. I don’t know if I was just tired or what, but I felt heavy and
unmotivated. I only got out for about two hours after lunch and only talked to a
handful of people (one was from Pakistan). This had some promise, but his English
was very poor. I think the days in these lost throngs of people just started to
overwhelm me.

Tonight I went to Times Square Church. It was
great. It is an interdenominational church whose
members represent 100 nations and languages.
Awesome message by a visiting minister on
“Brokenness.”  It encouraged me when I really
needed it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Oh praise the Sovereign name of the Lord!
Today was the best day of the trip! I felt the glorious presence of Jesus as I walked
all day. I could sense the wonderful help of the Holy Spirit as I spoke to person after
person. He truly gives power to witness!

I walked to the Avenue of Americas (6th), then toward Central Park. I saw Radio City
Music Hall. I talked to a few people briefly; the sidewalk was very crowded. I stopped
on the busy public sidewalk in front of Rockefeller Center to call Rex. I was sitting
with dozens of people on a bench talking to Rex, when a security guard came and
told me to leave. He said I had been seen by security cameras and they wanted me
gone. I took it in good nature. I stood and started slowly down the sidewalk because I
was still talking on my cell phone. Apparently the guard didn’t like my pace, even
though I was surrounded by hundreds of people only a few feet from the street. He
kept following me and glaring at me. I continued walking and at the end of the block I
stopped talking to Rex and started to cross the street. The light said “Don’t Walk” so
I stopped. Then the security guard started toward me again, like a dog sent to chase
me off his yard.

Time Magazine!

In the next block, a lady approached me and asked if she could ask me a few
questions. She told me she was from
Time Magazine, no less, and introduced
herself and her photographer, Andre. Unfortunately I forgot her name. We had a
great talk. I really felt God was giving me the words to say that would be interesting
to her and reflect the beautiful nature of Jesus. We spoke for about 15 minutes. She
told me with all that is going on she did not promise it would appear in the magazine,
but that she thought it was very interesting and worth submitting. She wanted my
name, phone number, and email. I gave her one of my brochures. At the end, I also
gave her one of my tracts.

I knew for a well-educated, possibly liberal, New York reporter, its message was
probably very direct and “politically incorrect.” I knew it might ruin the chances of my
actually making it into the magazine, but I would rather she clearly hear the gospel
and perhaps be saved than to appear in the magazine. We parted very cordially.
She seemed very sympathetic to my mission and encouraged me. She asked if I
minded if Andre followed me down the street and continued taking pictures. He
followed me for blocks and blocks incessantly taking pictures, all the way to Central
Park. I got to talk to him awhile and gave him a tract and brochure. Somehow this set
off a bit of a “feeding frenzy.” Several more members of the paparazzi showed up
snapping pictures, and I gave one more interview. I have no idea what might have
gotten published.

Once I reached the edge of Central Park, I leaned the cross up against a bench and
stopped and bought a hot dog. I went toward the bench but the man on the next
bench called me over and asked about the cross. We sat and had lunch together
and talked for about 45 minutes. He was from Chili. His name was Richardo and he
was really open to Jesus. At one point I asked him if he liked living in New York. He
said, “I love this country, but I’m lonely. It seems hard to make friends here. When
you are on the street, it’s like these people don’t have a heart!”

I knew just what he was talking about. A great many of these New Yorkers are very
unapproachable. Many of them seem to look right through you. But I have found this
week how amazing and disarming a simple smile can be. People sometimes gawk at
me with my life-size cross (and who can blame them); I see cynicism and even a
mocking look start to take over their face. Just at that moment though, I can often
make eye contact with them, give them a warm smile and even a greeting, and
before they know it that hardness melts away. We wind up in friendly conversation
about Jesus the Son of God. I’m not sure this would have worked even September
10th, but now these people have been humbled.  Years ago, Keith Green had a
song with the line,
Take some time, make a friend of a stranger!  This is not my
nature, but if I let Jesus’ love come through me, it happens time after time.

Once in the park I was photographed by lots of people in horse-drawn carriages. I
talked to a continuous stream of people from all over the world. The first being a man
from China name Sha (spelling questionable). Next a really long discussion with a
man named Victor from Ghana. He was very intelligent and well educated and gave
me an extensive test. But in the end he seemed very pleased with the answers I gave
him about the Christian faith. Only then did he accept literature, and go happily on
his way. Next, three Swiss people wanted my picture. I got to witness to them in
German about Jesus.

Finally, I left the park and started down 5th Avenue. I spoke to a crusty native New
Yorker. He had a thick accent and seemed pretty cynical about life. We started
talking about September 11th, and he really began to let down his guard. At some
point he started talking about needing a place of peace for him and his family. “I
have to tell you, last Sunday I went to church for the first time in many, many years”
he said staring at my cross. What a joy it was to speak to him about faith in Christ
and put a tract into his hand, knowing he is desperately searching spiritually. I took
him as far as I could in the time we had together.

I also got to speak for a few minutes with a New York policeman on 5th Ave. He
seemed pleased and accepted a tract. A gregarious woman named Lurlene from
Jamaica boisterously conversed with me about Jesus on 45th Street. On Times
Square I spoke with a wonderful Korean man named Wong (spelling also very
questionable). He was a street vendor and was ecstatic to talk with me about Jesus.
Many of the people I spoke with today spoke English very poorly, but somehow you
feel that the love of Jesus still bridges the gap between their heart and yours. There
were many, many others as well whom I did not get their name or cannot remember,
and many native New Yorkers sprinkled through out the day. This was the best day
so far; it seems God often saves the best for last. By his help and grace I was able to
connect with people and speak heart to heart with total strangers all day long.

As I was returning to my hotel I saw that the construction crew on the corner were
finishing their project, taking down their scaffolding and packing up their tools. I
spotted my new friend Brian, (I had talked to him almost everyday this week) and He
came right to me. I complimented the work they had done on the building’s façade
and asked if they were finished. He nodded his head and said, “I see you’re still at it
too.” I told him my work was almost complete and tomorrow I would be flying home.
Then I ventured, “I hope I had some impact on your life this week.” He smiled
broadly, and said in his thick Irish accent, “That you did!” I asked him if he had read
the tract I had given him the first day. “That I did, my friend.” We spoke ever so
briefly about it. But I knew I needed to be sensitive to the fact that he was working.

We got ready to part, and we knew we would never see each other again. Then he
quickly blurted out, “Is that thing, heavy?” I said, “No, only about forty pounds and I
hardly notice it.” Then he said, “I’d like to try it on my shoulder, if I might.” Then and
there, right on the corner of Broadway and 45th Street on Times Square,
surrounded by thousands of people, Brian lifted the cross onto his shoulder. He
walked it a few steps and stood there with it on his shoulder a couple of minutes. He
finally sat it down, grinned real big and plunged his hand into mine. We shook hands
and said goodbye.

I turned, put the cross back on my shoulder and walked up 45th to my hotel a block
away. He went the other way back to his work crew and his daily life. My prayer for
Brian and all the others I spoke with and gave literature to this week in New York, is
nothing less than they will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, find saving faith in Jesus
Christ and experience the miraculous life-changing message of the Gospel. Please
join me in that prayer!