Survivor Tree Seedlings Link NYC, OKC
During the 10 months I spent working in 9/11 recovery efforts at Ground Zero and the eight years I spent working to build the 9/11 Memorial, I created many strong relationships.
A bible donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum symbolizes the bonds of grief, compassion, hope and resilience shared by responders and survivors of terrorist attacks in both Oklahoma City and New York City. On the morning of April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City Police Department Chaplain Jack Poe felt the ground shake violently as a bomb exploded at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, eight miles from his home. Tuning into his police radio, Poe drove downtown, witnessing huge plumes of smoke, crushed cars and shattered glass as he approached the disaster scene. He spent the next few days and much of the following months comforting survivors, responders and relatives of those who had been killed, all the while knowing that his own friends and colleagues were among the dead.
Soon after the bombing, Poe met members of NYC’s police and fire departments who came to Oklahoma to respond to the disaster and offer their expertise in urban search and rescue. In an oral history he recorded with me, Poe said, “We were so glad that they were here because they were the experts in shoring up buildings and keeping buildings from collapsing. … They literally almost rebuilt the Murrah Building from the inside out, shoring it up so that it wouldn’t fall, so that our people could go in and continue their rescue and recovery operation … and we were so grateful for their response.”
Poe had no doubts about what he needed to do as soon as he learned that the Twin Towers had collapsed on September 11, 2001. By the afternoon of Sept. 13, he and a small number of other Oklahomans had secured an “angel flight” that carried them east despite the suspension of air travel in the U.S. Poe offered pastoral support to workers at Ground Zero and blessed bodies that had been recovered. A week later, he spoke at a memorial service for all uniformed responders killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, honoring their sacrifice and offering comfort to those who attended, upon bible verses and lyrics to the song “Fallen But Not Forgotten.”
Poe’s full sermon was later published in a Police Officer’s Bible, a Christian bible with special devotional passages for law enforcement personnel in their mission to protect and serve. He donated a copy of the Bible to the Museum in 2007 when staff from the 9/11 Memorial visited Oklahoma City.
By Amy Weinstein, Associate Director of Collections/Senior Oral Historian