Winter  2002
Volume 6 Number 2

Nineteen Princeton alumni/ae whose lives, congregations, and ministries were closely affected by the terrorism on September 11 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania share stories of that day and the weeks that followed. Many told inSpire how grateful they were for their seminary education at Princeton as they ministered in these difficult days. They witnessed to the gospel of God's love in Jesus Christ at a time when profoundly good news was needed.   

Images of Pain Through the Roadblocks The Privilege of Ministry
Names of the Lost Near the Pentagon What to Say?
Returning from Jordan Among the Wreckage Memorial Service
A Mennonite Response A Prayer from Uganda  Reflections from Egypt
Terrorism and Education For Warmth A Liturgical Response
O God, Our Words Cannot Express A Congregation in the Capital The Fragility and Fullness of Life

Images of Pain

The image on television of the towers burning appeared surreal, as in a bad disaster movie. Standing on Madison Avenue looking south at the black smoke rising against the clear blue sky, people on cell phones with pained, concerned looks. Sitting in a forum on housing at Riverside Church with 70 clergy of different faiths. Hearing of the implosion, praying together, leaving for our faith community. Walking through Central Park as it was closed to all vehicles. Planning two prayer services for that day. Then six more in the following three days. Friday night, a candlelight service culminating with everyone on Park Avenue, singing. 

Listening to the fears, sharing the tears. Members who witnessed the attacks; who witnessed those jumping and landing; who ran from the gray matter smothering the air. Calling families of those who worked downtown-taking two days not knowing about several of them. One woman took the wrong train that morning; it ended up being the right one for her. The thousands saved, not physically hurt, yet not escaping the emotional torment. Worshippers overflowed the sanctuary, many in black. Seeking consolation, praying for loved ones, asking God "Why?" A memorial service for a young, brilliant man from Florida-a life gone in the innocence of work. 

Chopping pumpkins, dicing onions-preparing food for relief workers. Hands in rhythm, reaching out. Disaster relief funds offered for those out of work, depressed, lonely. This has not ended. There may never be an end. We shed tears, we offer prayers, we go on. 

Krystin Granberg, Class of 1994, is associate pastor at Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City.


  Through the Roadblocks

  Terrorists attack your city while you're two hours away by car, devastating the downtown area where at least a third of your congregation works; you don't know how many are buried in the rubble. The pastor is trapped on the West Coast, the phones are down, and the city has been blockaded. You're one of the associate pastors, ordained for less than one year. What do you do? Good question; I don't remember this on the ordination exams. I got in the car and started driving, arriving at the church around 2:00 p.m. after the NYPD waved me through the roadblocks as a pastor. Now what do we do?

We made dozens of phone calls, leaving message after message with members saying, "Please let us know you're okay; we care about you." We handed out more than 8,000 cups of cool water to people who had to walk home from their offices because Manhattan's transportation systems were shut down. We prayed, holding service after service attended by hundreds of people, many seeking God's presence for the first time in their memories. We listened to the scores of people who walked into the sanctuary every day to tell their stories and pour out their grief. It was exhausting, it was terrifying, it was moving, it was gratifying. It was ministry. I have thanked God every day for calling me to minister in New York City during this time.

J.C. Austin, Class of 1998, is associate pastor at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Fred R. Anderson, pastor of Madison Avenue, Class of 1973, and PTS trustee, was in California at the time of the attacks and could not fly back.

Many people have asked me, "What's it been like to be a pastor in New York City since September 11?" My first response is, "It is an inestimable privilege to serve Christ by serving the people of New York during these tumultuous times." On September 11 our congregation in midtown Manhattan opened its doors to wounded people (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) who were making their way up Fifth and Sixth Avenues from the World Trade Center area. We offered a worship service at 1:00 p.m. that was so well attended that we offered three additional services that day. As our pastors walked outside on Fifth Avenue with our robes and white stoles, symbolic of the resurrection, many people approached us and asked us to talk and pray with them. Men and women whom I had never seen before dissolved in tears in my arms as they tried to explain what they had seen. One man told me, amid sobs, that he had seen a man get out of the World Trade Center and begin to call a family member on a cell phone, only to be struck in the head by a piece of flying debris and killed. Needless to say, these sights left people numb and filled with anxiety. Others came into the sanctuary with blood on their shirts or blouses-not their own but rather blood from the horrific explosion.

During this tragedy, our church found worship was the most comforting thing we could offer. I have often mentioned in my sermons recently that we offer "the empty cross" of a savior who was crucified and whom God raised from the dead, a savior who now lives among us to give us strength and courage for the living of these days. I've never known a time in my 28 years of ordained ministry when the words of the gospel have been more important than now. And I believe that God sent me, and many others, to New York City for such a time as this. It is an inestimable privilege to preach the gospel of a savior and a redeemer during these tumultuous times and to give New Yorkers and all people what they most need: hope.

Thomas K. Tewell, Class of 1973, is pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City and a PTS trustee.

Names of the Lost

Tuesday morning, September 11, began for me with a call from our local police department, which I serve as chaplain, requesting that I accompany one of their officers to notify a mother and her four children that their husband and father had been killed in an automobile accident early that morning. After I spent an hour with this new widow, the officer drove me back to the church. As he dropped me off we remarked to each other that the day could only get better. Within minutes our church staff watched as those two planes hit those buildings. We spent the rest of the day calling all the families in our congregation that had parents, spouses, or children working downtown. By day's end three fathers were unaccounted for. They never came home. When the sun set that Tuesday evening our sanctuary was filled with people, most of whom I had never met before. After we sang and read from Scripture, I invited the congregation to pray aloud for those whose welfare was yet uncertain. The chorus of names we heard over the next 15 minutes is something I will never forget. By week's end we learned that 19 of our community were lost to the rubble.

Stephen D. McConnell, Class of 1984, is pastor of The Presbyterian Church at Liberty Corner in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, and the Bernards Township police chaplain.


Near the Pentagon

I am a Navy chaplain assigned to the Marine Corps Combat Development Center in Quantico, Virginia, and was called on to spend some time at the Family Assistance Center in Crystal City, Virginia, two days after the national tragedy. I had not yet taken off my coat before being asked to take a phone call from Tim, a 53-year-old bachelor who had lost the first woman he had ever loved and chosen to soon marry. No sooner had I finished that conversation than I was pulled aside by a uniformed man, Craig, composed in demeanor and Lincolnesque in stature. My first thought was that this was another volunteer at the center who would lead me to another distraught soul, only to discover that it was his wife of 25 years whose office was at the center of impact.

The following Sunday I attended the First United Presbyterian Church in Dale City, Virginia, where Bob Edmunds (PTS Class of 1974) is pastor. There in the lobby was Craig, present that day as a result of Bob's pastoral care given him earlier in the week. Bob and I had not arranged or even been aware of our "double-teaming," but it was evident to all of us that our ministry had been divinely synchronized. 

Later, at Craig's wife's memorial service, her boss spoke of the only two from their office who had perished in the disaster: Craig's wife, Cheryl, and, as it turns out, Tim's fiancé, Sandy. The two men had never met, yet God allowed me to be an integral part of each man's individual journey. In these days of confusion and purposelessness, God's creative Spirit continues the weaving of his masterful design.

Margaret Grun Kibben, Class of 1986, is a commander in the United States Navy Chaplain Corps, currently assigned as doctrine writer for religious ministry in the United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps Combat Development Center, in Quantico, Virginia.


On the morning of September 11, one hundred mothers gasped in horror as I made the announcement in our auditorium. The excited atmosphere of parent orientation for the new school year turned into incredulous shock. While frantic spouses tried to reach their loved ones by cell phones, we tried to pray. 

Our community of Summit, New Jersey, is a short train ride to New York City. We have several individuals who work in the World Trade Center. I assembled our staff team to brainstorm about who worked in the buildings. My next task was to start visiting these homes to find out if they were okay. At the first six houses, we received good news: One person was late to work and never made it to the building. Two were out on business travel. One person had taken the morning off to get his car fixed. Two made it out of the building alive. 

The last house I went to was of a good friend and elder, Todd Rancke. The door to the house was open and I walked into the entryway. Because I am about the same height as Todd, his wife, Debbie, mistook me for her husband. With relief she sprang up to hug me, but reality slowly crept in. She collapsed in my arms, saying, "Oh, my God! I thought you were Todd. I thought he came home! Where's Todd? You've got to find him." I have never felt more helpless as a pastor. 

Richard Kannwischer, Class of 1998, is pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, New Jersey.

On the morning of September 11, 14 of us boarded a Royal Jordanian flight after a marvelous tour of Jordan. The group was composed of pastors, mostly from the D.C. area, including PTS alums Graham Bardsley (Class of 1963), Howard Boswell (Class of 1984), David Stoker (Class of 1980), and me. The tour was organized by the Friends of Jordan in an effort to encourage tourism, to try to positively affect Arab perspectives of Americans and American perspectives of Arabs, and to introduce Christians to the many biblical sites in Jordan.

When we landed for scheduled refueling in Shannon, Ireland, the world changed, and we began an unexpected weeklong stay in Ireland.

Perhaps the most moving experience of the trip was when the Irish closed the country on Friday for a national day of mourning. We attended an ecumenical service hosted by a local Catholic parish. The church was standing room only for the 500 or so crowded inside, with many more listening through open windows. We were invited to sit in the chancel behind a makeshift altar the children of the parish had put together with models of the Twin Towers, toy police cars and fire engines, American and Irish flags, and a clock stopped at the time of the first plane crash. The special music included, "May the circle be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by." After the worship concluded we were greeted over and over again with a phrase delivered in a soft brogue, "We're sorry for your troubles." It was especially tender coming from people in a country that knows something of their own "troubles." There, by the banks of the Shannon, we were reminded of the power of worship and the gift of Christian community. 

Guy D. Griffith, Class of 1986, is associate pastor for education at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is president of the PTS Alumni/ae Association.

Among the Wreckage

I was stationed at "the landfill" for many days during my tour of duty as an Army National Guard chaplain. Along with other chaplains, I provided pastoral care for the NYPD, CIA, firefighters, and FIMA workers who were going through the debris from the terrorist attacks. One day I was walking around and saw a police officer welding open a car crushed at ground zero. When the officer opened the car, he found a man's body and a child in a fastened car seat. He saw the stuffed animal and the small shoes next to the seat. The man lost his ability to cope and, in desperation, threw the welding tool several feet in the air. He saw me walking by at that moment, and this tall, big-boned police officer said to me, "If you are very strong, can handle a grown man's anger, and can walk at least three miles around this god-forsaken dump, then walk with me, chaplain." We walked for two-and-a-half miles around the dump before he said, in a broken voice, which led to nonstop crying for 45 minutes, "I accidentally dropped my four-month-old baby seven months ago, and our baby died from broken neck injuries. When I saw that child in the car seat earlier, it reminded me of my only son, who's now gone. Why is there so much pain in the world, chaplain? Why did this happen to me? Why does God want me sorting through the bodies at this site? What can I do with my grief?"

These were just some of the questions I talked about with this New York police officer and with others at Operation Respect at the landfill on Staten Island.

Joanne S. Martindale, Class of 1988 and a PTS trustee, is director of chaplaincy at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Ancora, New Jersey. She has also served as an Army National Guard chaplain (major) for the past 12 years in New Jersey. She spent 44 days after the September 11 attacks on active duty in New York City at both ground zero and at the Staten Island landfill, the site where debris from the World Trade Center is being sorted.


Memorial Service

October 28. Church and Vesey Streets, New York City.
Hundreds of families who lost loved ones are streaming in from the buses. The din of the generators and the fire pumper truck is suddenly overcome by the sound of church bells. They strike twelve.

1:30 p.m. People are moving the barriers. Tempers. Pain pours out. A police captain is in tears. The orchestra is playing the soundtrack from Platoon. A security cop with a bullhorn is trying to get someone off the top of a telephone booth.

2:24 p.m. Ilya Gringolts is playing the violin; the shadows are getting longer and the crowd quieter. Rabbi Potasnik says, "We are the re-United States of America." Applause. Renee Fleming begins to sing "Amazing Grace" and a woman at the barricades starts to sing along. More people join the singing. I have to pay attention to those crying now. What an overwhelming sea of tears and grief. I need to start helping those who have broken down. 

The cops are crying. Families huddled with arms around each other. Pigeons in flight above us are backlit in shadows of buildings, like great black ravens. As they break into the sunshine, they burst into brilliant white, like doves.

4:30 p.m. Day is done. Very tired. Now begins the healing. To lay to rest in this common grave 5,544 of every nation, language, and faith. The last person stands writing her name on the wooden rail of the platform overlooking the site. Staking claim or ownership in this place of horror and miracle.

Wayne Whitelock, Class of 1964, is part of the American Red Cross's Spiritual Care Air Incident Response Team, chartered by Congress through the National Transportation Safety Board as specially trained chaplains deployed in any air emergency with mass casualties. This is a page from his daily Palm Pilot log. From October 20 until the end of November he was in New York to supervise spiritual care workers of all faiths under the Red Cross at 12 sites, including the Family Assistance Center, two respite centers for workers at ground zero, and two mortuaries.


A Prayer from Uganda 
(emailed to PTS on Thursday, September 13)

I would like to express my sympathy to all of you dear Americans after this terrorist attack on your country. It is still a shock for me, and I mourn the death of all those innocent victims-some of whom could be your relatives or close associates. I pray for all of you as you experience this unspeakable sorrow and indescribable horror. I visited the top floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center during my time at Princeton. What has happened there and what has happened at the Pentagon is hard to believe. May God wash away your tears and calm your hearts. I am really tempted to think of revenge, but let God's will be done to these enemies of peace and democracy who target innocent people. May good triumph over evil. May God not desert America and the world at such a dark moment.

The Reverend Israel Wasswa Ahimbisibwe, Class of 1998, is coordinator of theological education by extension for the Episcopal Church in Uganda.

Students and faculty at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, wrote a letter to President Bush pledging our prayer support and expressing our desire that this nation respond with restraint: "Violent retaliation by this country will only plant seeds of hatred that some day will yield further terror and bloodshed.... There is no military response or hardware that can make the United States truly secure. The only viable long-term strategy is to build friendship with those who would be our enemies, to work for a world where resources and power are shared by all, and to put our confidence in God."

Two weeks after the September 11 attacks, the seminary community gathered for a memorial service and hammered 6,000 wooden stakes into the campus lawn (one for each victim). This was a profoundly confessional experience. In silence we pounded the stakes around the open form of a cross. A sign along the road says, "We mourn each life lost; we pray for peace." As a symbol of Christian hope in God's power to heal and renew, we plan to place a crocus bulb in each of the 6,000 stake holes. This will become an annual symbol of resurrection, a reminder of God's redemption of a suffering world through the cross.

J. Nelson Kraybill, Class of 1983, is president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.

Reflections from Egypt

Like America, Egypt has been rocked by the atrocities of September 11. Unlike America, the emotions expressed have not reflected a unified opposition to bin Laden and his network. Certainly some Egyptians felt shock and sadness at the sight of the collapsing twin towers and the massive deaths that day. But bin Laden's message regarding the evils of U.S. policies in Israel/Palestine and the occupation of Islam's holiest land by "infidels" has a real resonance with many of our Muslim and Christian friends and acquaintances. Years of feeling betrayed and controlled in this region cause Egyptians to see the present through the prism of the past, especially the decades of Israeli injustice and oppression in Palestine, which rankle deeply. Though the Egyptian government has offered cautious support of the West's efforts against terrorism, the state-run press and state-controlled mosques vocally oppose military action in Afghanistan. At Cairo's most famous mosque, 5 km from our apartment, the secretary-general of Egypt's Labor Party prayed, "God, ensure the victory of the Taliban over the American miscreants." We often pass truckloads of police in riot gear outside of Ein Shams University, within walking distance of our home. They are there to keep rein on anti-Western sentiments of Egypt's younger generations. Within the smaller sphere of our seminary, students are struggling to formulate their opinions. Many feel caught between their opposition to terrorism on the one hand and their outrage with U.S. policy throughout the Middle East on the other. Compulsory military service further complicates matters for our graduates. It is more difficult than ever to be a Christian in the Middle East.

The Reverends Darren and Elisabeth Kennedy, both Class of 1999, are mission coworkers with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and professors at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt.


Terrorism and Education

The September 11 collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, which I witnessed from my office in the Interchurch Center, was for me the latest in a series of horrific events related to my work for a Presbyterian-founded university in Lebanon.

When I first visited Beirut in 1979, Lebanon was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. My associates and I were then trying to keep Beirut University College alive. To reach our West Beirut campus, students and faculty had to brave fighting militias, artillery barrages, and car bombings. We later had to cope with the Israeli invasion and house 700 fleeing refugees. Subsequently we were staggered by the suicide bombings of the American embassy and Marine barracks, and the kidnapping of Ben Wier and four of our professors. Yet, through all this, the college grew from 1,000 to 2,500 students. 

During this time of uncertainty, I am exceptionally fortunate to be affiliated again with what has since become the Lebanese American University, with 5,500 students in four schools on three campuses. It is reassuring to work for an institution that has survived so much adversity-and grown stronger in the process. It is gratifying to help continue the mission of providing American higher education to Lebanese and other Arab young people-regardless of religion, gender, nationality, or affiliation-while also promoting tolerance, peace, justice, and human rights in the Middle East. Education continues to be our response to terrorism.

Bob Stoddard, Class of 1965, is vice president for development for the Lebanese American University in its New York City office.


I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands,
to keep my loneliness warm
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me in anger.

Thich Nhat Hanh, special student at PTS from 1961 to 1962, has read this poem at many public gatherings since September 11. A Zen master, poet, author, and peace and human rights activist, he lives in Plum Village, a meditation community he founded in France.

I returned to the office on September 11 refreshed and renewed by a three-month sabbatical leave. As I ended my first meeting of the day I received a call from my wife, who teaches in Montclair, New Jersey. "Bill, there's something terribly wrong at the World Trade Center. From my classroom window, I can see a huge plume of smoke coming from the building."

Our church has responded to the crisis and the ongoing events in a variety of ways, including liturgically. Within hours after the tragic events, we began to spread word that we would gather that night for prayer and Holy Communion. About four hundred people came together, and we stayed long and talked about the events of the day at the close of the service. The sense of Christian community was comforting in the face of tragedy. We were surrounded by the saints of the church. We have since instituted a weekly service of evening prayer so that the community can gather together for worship, prayer, song, and silent reflection. Attendance has continued to grow each week.

The day after the tragedy I talked with two other clergy in town to see if we could make some plans for an interfaith gathering for prayer and common worship. The largest single gathering place was the local synagogue, which was about to enter the holy days of Rosh Hashanah. As Rosh Hashanah ended on Wednesday, we met in the temple as an interfaith community, led by Christian and Jewish clergy and an Islamic imam. More than 1,500 members of the various Westfield congregations came together that night. The interfaith community has pledged to come together in this fashion again soon.

William Forbes, Class of 1972, is pastor of The Presbyterian Church in Westfield, New Jersey.

O God, Our Words Cannot Express

St. Anne CM
("O God, Our Help in Ages Past")

O God, our words cannot express
The pain we feel this day.
Enraged, uncertain, we confess
Our need to bow and pray.

We grieve for all who lost their lives...
And for each injured one.
We pray for children, husbands, wives
Whose grief has just begun.

O Lord, we're called to offer prayer
For all our leaders, too.
May they, amid such great despair,
Be wise in all they do.

We trust your mercy and your grace;
In you we will not fear!
May peace and justice now embrace!
Be with your people here!

Tune: Attr. William Croft, 1708. Tune is in public domain.
Text: Copyright@2001 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Contact information: 

This hymn was written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, Class of 1985, who copastors the First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, New Jersey. Gillette wrote the hymn in response to the September 11 attacks. It has since been recorded by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, & Mary and has been used by many around the world during recent weeks.


A Congregation in the Capital

About half of the congregation at National Presbyterian Church works in government buildings, one of which now has a gaping wound in its side. All of these buildings feel like targets for terrorists. So every morning before leaving for work mothers and fathers hug their children a little bit longer, because they are not certain they will come home at the end of the day. Of course none of us was ever assured of that, but now we are more aware of life's volatility. And so I find that people are asking rather profound questions about the purpose and meaning of their lives a lot more frequently than they used to. 

Our congregation includes many people who are responsible for leading the nation as it responds to terrorism. They regularly fill the pews, bowing their heads in prayer, asking God to grant them wisdom and courage for the facing of this hour.

In the days immediately following September 11, we had an insatiable thirst for worship. The church had a worship service almost every night for a week, always with large crowds. Our people wanted worship even more than they wanted counseling or vain reassurances that they would be okay. In times of crisis, the soul yearns to bring its fears and deep questions into the presence of God. In the weeks that have followed, the congregation has tried to return to its normal life, as an act of faithful living, but it is no less focused on expecting the Word of God to speak within the nagging anxieties that now accompany our daily routines.

As I have spoken God's Word to our people, and served as their shepherd through the long days of crisis, like many pastors I discovered that I was well trained for this. So much of our time is spent running programs and overseeing church work. But when the dark days come it is good to know that our seminaries have done an excellent job of equipping pastors to be, well, pastors.

M. Craig Barnes, Class of 1981, is pastor of National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and a PTS trustee.


The Fragility and Fullness of Life

Kenny and I grew up together at the same church in Brooklyn, New York. We shared the same crib space, went through Sunday school, enjoyed the church's youth fellowship, played on the same softball team, celebrated when we got our first cars, and sang in a gospel group for several years. These experiences solidified a friendship built upon a common faith and spirit. Kenny was the best man in my wedding, and I had the privilege of officiating at his wedding and baptizing his daughter, Olivia. He was 38 years old-husband of Mary, father of Olivia, brother of Suzanne, son to Carlos and Anna, and a faithful friend to many. Kenneth Charles Ledee worked on the 95th floor of Tower 1 in the World Trade Center and died on September 11.

In the weeks that followed I spent time with Mary and Kenny's family. Mine was a ministry of presence as they (and I) moved through fear and anxiety to grief and mourning.

As I prepared to address the congregation at Kenny's memorial service, I stood before the congregation and before God in awe of the fragility of life. Family, friends, and loved ones I hadn't seen in years were there. I was a close friend of Kenny's who wanted to express pain and anger, while also a minister called to empathize with those who were in the congregation suffering. Proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was crucial in this moment. God's Spirit led me to share that death does not end a relationship. When we're born, the cord that binds child to mother is cut, yet the relationship has not ended, only moved to a new phase. So it is with the cord binding a person to this life-when it is cut, that person who was among us moves on from the fragility to the fullness of life. And we are left in the love and support of friends, which when joined with our trust in God's loving plan, carries us through-in the quiet conviction and certain hope of a resurrection and unending life together. 

Victor Aloyo Jr., Class of 1989, is director of vocations at Princeton Seminary. 


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© Copyright 2001 Princeton Theological Seminary | last updated 12/20/01

In This Issue


Renewing a Right Spirit

For Such a Time As This: PTS Campus Community Responds to September 11

Windows on a Shattered World

"A Witness to the Truth": Martin Luther King Jr.'s Eulogy for PTS Alum James J. Reeb


From the President's desk
Letters to the Editor
Student Life  
On & Off Campus
Class Notes
Weddings and Births
In Memoriam
Submit Your
Class Notes
Funny you Should Remember
On The Shelves
Take a Bow
Investing in Ministry
Alumni/ae Update
inSpire Staff
End Things

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