Oklahomans at Ground Zero in NYC

Thursday, September 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A firsthand account from an Oklahoman at Ground Zero. News on Six reporter Emory Bryan says within hours of the attacks, the call went out for experienced chaplains to counsel people working in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

An Oklahoma chaplain answered the call, and is now working at the morgue a block from the disaster. Sam Porter, Baptist Disaster Relief: "It's the very same scenario as Oklahoma city, just multiplied by thousands instead of 168." Sam Porter is an Oklahoma Baptist, in New York City directing spiritual counseling for police and firefighters. "And whenever they find one of their own, with great dignity and great honor these men take a stretcher. Sometimes they take that person in a body bag on a stretcher, many times they carry that person the block and a half from the rubble up to where the morgue is set. They walk just like at a memorial service, they walk quickly because they want to get back, but there is great dignity there. Last night there was a policeman found, 100 men escorted one of their leaders back to the medical examiner's place."

Porter and four other Oklahoma chaplains were called because of their grim resumes - the Murrah building - and the Midwest City tornadoes. "I prayed with a detective a couple nights ago who was bandaged up and I said tell me your story, I know you didn't fall down in the rubble and he said no I was in the building I came out, I escaped, and he was a detective. And I said so how many people do you know are lost? And he said right now it's up to 65, and I said are these close friends, and he said no only 39 are close friends and relatives that are missing and that was pretty overwhelming for me when he said only 39, and he was back there working coordinating some of the effort on the backside of the pile."

There are 32,000 people working in shifts to search the rubble. Porter says their physical needs have been met, but their spiritual needs are great. "I know there are thousands of people in Oklahoma who want to make a difference they want to be here and they can by praying, but giving to their favorite charity, there's enough stuff given what they need now is prayer support and encouragement from people around the world, that's the most important thing they can do.”

Porter says despite the loss of their colleagues, the searchers remain strong. As for the view from Ground Zero, he says the body search was slow at first. He says body bags are coming in every few minutes now.