9/11 - Ten Years Later
[I wrote the following account in 2011 and am writing these words on September 9, 2016. On Sunday morning, September
11th, exactly fifteen years after the tragic events that shook our nation and the world, we are flying from Philadelphia
to Kansas City for a conference of our mission. Not many people want to fly on that day so the round trip ticket was
extremely cheap. Are we fearful? No. We often faced danger in our nearly four decades of missionary service. When God is
finished with us he will call us home no matter where we are.]
This seven-page document can be downloaded as a
PDF file here. (300 kb)
Sunday, September 11 marks the 10th anniversary of
terrorist attacks on America that changed the world we live in. Nearly everyone
can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they got news
of the terrorist attacks on what is now known simply as 9/11. This 6-page
article tells how we experienced that fateful day - and about the entire year
2001 for that matter. Only God could have orchestrated this!
We were serving as missionaries in Austria on September 11,
2001. We had been in Switzerland for meetings from Saturday though Monday and
needed some exercise. The sun was shining at 2:30 PM (8:30 AM in New York), so
we set out on our daily walk. The normal route took only 20 minutes but we
decided to take a longer route of about three kilometers.
A SUDDEN WEATHER CHANGE
After half an hour, winds picked up and dark, ominous
clouds appeared. The terrible hail storm of July 4th, 2000 was fresh in our
memories. Hundreds of new cars sitting in dealer's lots were written off as
total wrecks, only salvageable for parts. Nearly all standing crops were
flattened and chopped to pieces. The tile roofs of a thousand homes were
destroyed and it took the better part of a year for building crews to replace
them all. It got so dark, it seemed more like night than mid afternoon. There
was no place to take refuge, so we hurried home as fast as our legs could carry
us. We reached the door of our house just as the storm broke in all its fury.
Fortunately, there was no hail, but high winds and rain coming down in torrents
made us thankful that we were safe.
It was 3:00 PM (9:00 AM in New York City). We were hardly
inside when the telephone rang. Our neighbor across the street was on the
When we first moved to town in October, 1992, we knew no
one. We wanted to make friends and hopefully win them to Christ, but how was
that to happen? We made it a matter of prayer and began by introducing ourselves
to neighbors. Most showed little enthusiasm about having American missionaries
living next door. The older couple across the street was staunchly Roman
Catholic. He served as leading presbyter in the church and she was involved in
many church functions. But we discovered that we had much in common and a
spontaneous friendship developed. We shared many moral convictions. The ladies
liked gardening, handcrafts and cooking. The men enjoyed making things of wood
and talking about current events.
The biggest surprise was the fact that they had moved into
their house just one week before we arrived! They turned the farm over to their
son and moved here for their retirement years. They were nervous about what kind
of people might move in across the street.
A few years later, they also confided that they had hoped
to make good Catholics out of us!
We decided to attend public functions and get involved in
community affairs if we could do so with a clear conscience. We wanted to get
acquainted with local citizens. The first such function was a band concert.
Being a small town, the eyes of nearly everyone in the hall were fixed on us,
and we could almost read the lips of people asking, "Who is that couple?" The
concert began and there was some shuffling behind us as late-comers took their
seats. In the next moment I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. Our
neighbors were seated just behind us! During the intermission, we chatted and
enjoyed a hearty conversation. From that day on, everyone in town knew us! We
were good friends of prominent citizens, both politically and spiritually!
A DEFECTIVE TV
We didn't have a television. Our neighbor friends had one
but they seldom watched it other than the news. We spent New Years Eve 2000 with
them, talking about spiritual things and sharing wishes for the New Year. Near
midnight, he turned on the television to watch festivities in Vienna, but turned
it off again in disgust after seeing all the drinking and listening to
announcers talking about sex. We welcomed the new year in praying for each
In early September, 2001, their television quit working and
it was taken to a repair shop. On September 11, at 3:00 PM (9:00 AM in NYC), the
repairman showed up with the repaired TV. Our retired farmer friend, who seldom
watched TV, and never, ever, during the day, turned it on to make sure it
Seconds later, we arrived back at the house; the storm
broke; and our telephone rang.
It was our neighbor, “A plane just flew into a sky scraper
in New York City and they are showing it on TV. Do you want to come over and
watch?“ We grabbed an umbrella and made a dash for their side porch, trying not
to get wet.
At that time, reporters still thought it was a tragic
accident and were not even certain about the size of the plane. But for the next
three hours we watched in horror as another passenger plane crashed into the
second tower, and we continued watching as both towers of the World Trade Center
collapsed in a cloud of dust and smoke. We found it difficult to believe that
this was actually happening and not just a bad dream. Our eyes were filled with
tears long before the news broke of a third hijacked plane hitting the Pentagon
and a fourth crashing in western Pennsylvania. It seemed like a modern day
reenactment of the first chapter of Job.
Eight years earlier, we had flown to New York for our
daughter's wedding and had to wait a long time before we were allowed to
disembark. President Clinton arrived just before we landed after terrorists
detonated a truck bomb intended to bring down the twin towers of the World Trade
Center! Only seven persons were killed, but thousands were injured in 1993.
Eight years later, they were successful.
We walked to our house across the street in a daze. The
storm had subsided outside, but within me, another storm was raging. I had
planned the first of many showings of a special multimedia about America on
September 27. It was a project I had been working on for more than two decades
and was to be one of our final evangelistic efforts before retiring from Austria
in 2002. The show began with photos of New York City. The twin towers of the
World Trade Center were part of that, and many photos had been taken from the
WTC observatory. It seemed certain that we would have to cancel the multimedia.
I had just taken the invitations to the Post Office and paid a cheaper bulk rate
that guaranteed delivery within two weeks. There was still time to stop them
from going out.
Before entering the house, we checked our mailbox. Lying on
top was an invitation to our America Show! Every home in town had received an
invitation just hours before the first plane crashed into the north tower
of the World Trade Center!
27 YEARS OF PREPARATION
In 1974, I organized a concert tour for eight musically
gifted Europeans. We toured and gave concerts in many eastern States plus
Ontario. An Austrian pianist arrived early and accompanied our family as we
traveled across the country by car. The impressions these young Europeans gained
of an America they did not know inspired me to make a slide show about
little-known aspects of North America. My idea was to make it interesting,
educational, a bit humorous and of course, evangelistic. During the next two
decades, I gathered information and pictures.
In 1996, Austria officially celebrated it's 1000th
birthday. There were cities and buildings much older than that, but 996 was the
first mention of a country called österrichi, meaning "eastern
kingdom." Many special events were being planned for 1996 and we wanted to use
the occasion to do something evangelistic.
Early in 1995, we began planning six weeks of evangelistic
meetings throughout Austria under the theme, "America Wishes Austria Happy
Birthday!" A Bible College choir from Canada was engaged to provide music. The
musicians spent an entire academic year rehearsing their songs in both English
and German. I created a slide show of America using three projectors and a
dissolve unit. Finally, I prepared a number of "Chalk Talks" with evangelistic
Our supporters gave generously to help pay for expenses
involved. We bought a used 9-passenger van and a utility trailer to haul
instruments and equipment. A thousand large color posters and a half ton of
color invitations were printed. Our son, Richard, designed a logo with the
Austrian, American and Canadian flags and our slogan, "America wishes Austria
Happy Birthday!" A silk-screen printer made a thousand decals and scores of
T-shirts with our logo on them.
We had 43 meetings in churches and public halls. Attendance
was great and several pastors told us that these were the most effective and
fruitful meetings they had ever experienced.
The slide show about America was so well received, that I
decided to expand and refine it to show at a later date. That date came five
years later, in September, 2001.
Many people feared that computers would crash and throw the
world into chaos on New Years Day, 2000. Nothing of the kind happened and the
new millennium ushered in a boom in technology, the Internet and computerization
in every facet of life.
Advanced technology was rapidly making multimedia shows
popular in theme parks and theatres around the world. In Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, Sight & Sound's new Millennium Theatre opened, drawing more than
10,000 visitors every week, all of them hearing a clear presentation of the
gospel! Visitors were fascinated with what they saw on stage, but few bothered
to look behind them. At the rear was a large glassed room packed with the latest
technology including 36 Kodak Ektapro slide projectors, made in Germany!
Not far from where we lived in Austria, Stumpfl was making
headlines with its multimedia technology. Stumpfl produced the sophisticated
hard- and software to operate Kodak Ektapro multi-projection setups.
This missionary, who had not owned a television set in 20
years, decided to purchase four Ektapro projectors, and the Stumpfl software and
equipment needed to operate them. A video projector, purchased with memorial
gifts from my mother's funeral, a CD-player with optical out, a giant portable
screen, special racks and tables for the projectors, and a stereo sound system
completed the setup.
The entire multimedia show, consisting of 960 slides and several video clips,
was put together on a specially built multimedia computer. Stereo sound tracks
containing music, sound effects, voice and embedded commands for the projectors
were also prepared on the computer using "hard-disk recording" techniques.
Everything was later burned onto a CD. A Sony CD-Player was connected by optical
cable to the Stumpfl hardware, which in turn, drove the Ektapro projectors.
This was state-of-the -art technology, the cutting edge of
1) The show opened with a part of America familiar to all Europeans; the sky
scrapers of New York City as seen from the top of the World Trade Center. In
stark contrast, viewers were introduced to gigantic forests and underground
aquifers on the doorstep of this 20 million city (the New Jersey pinelands).
2) Europeans immediately picture big cars and trucks when they think of the USA,
so I of course included these. But the "Nation on Wheels" segment also included
mobile home parks, modular homes, and RVs. It showed how hotels and other large
structures are moved from one location to another. One of these was a brick bank
which my Grandfather helped move in 1927, using only horses, block & tackle and
3) A third segment depicted the American entertainment industry, with its theme
parks, Hollywood show business and even churches and restaurants that offer
3) Shopping is big in America - malls, outlets, yard sales and the American
auction are unique to America.
4) American sports could not be overlooked. Baseball, football, basketball and
rodeo are important elements of American culture.
6) Few Americans know much about the fragile barrier islands and Intra Coastal
Waterway, which stretch from New England to the Florida Keys, but we introduced
these to Europeans.
7) Milking trees to obtain maple syrup was especially interesting.
8) Few European bee keepers have more than 100 colonies. They find it difficult
to conceive of bee farms with 5,000 - 10,000 hives. Viewers were especially
intrigued by photos of "Harvey's Honey" and my nephew, covered from head to foot
with millions of bees (entered in Guinness Book of Records as the largest bee
9) Towards the end of the show, came a segment about high tech, including
computers, Silicon Valley, tours of a TV station and an atomic reactor.
10) In stark contrast to the section on technology, the final segment depicted
German-speaking Americans, the Amish, Hutterites, Brethren and Mennonites. Some
of these groups live much the same as they did centuries ago, without
automobiles and electricity.
The show was designed for the unchurched, but a question and answer session at
the end of the presentation provided ample opportunity to share biblical truths
and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The project was finally completed in late summer, 2001. We
chose the town we lived in for the grand premiere and reserved a large hall for
September 27. Posters, invitations and a 38-page handout were printed for this
and many other showings to follow.
The invitations were deposited in every mail box of our
town on Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001!
Was all this just coincidence? The twin towers of the World Trade Center were
depicted prominently on color posters and on our website. I wrote and printed a
38-page booklet to give each guest. The cover of the booklet had a photo of the
ruins of Delphi in Greece, and below it, a picture of New York, with the twin
towers of the World Trade Center in the foreground. The title was "Zivilisation
Wohin?" (Where is Civilization Headed?). A coincidence? Hardly!
Needless to say, we were in a dilemma. Should we cancel the event? Everyone
would understand if we did. If we went ahead with the show, people might ask if
we had no respect for the victims. On the other hand, we could expect capacity
crowds. God had a hand in all this, but what was he telling us?
After much prayer and thought, I decided to change the
section on NYC. I inserted pictures of the terrorist attack with the burning
towers and then paused the show for 30 seconds of silence. I showed the
presentation over 50 times in cities throughout Austria. Halls were usually
filled and the response was dramatic. Many were counseled and a good number gave
their lives to Christ.
A BLESSED YEAR 2001
After serving 38 years as missionaries in Europe, health
issues caused me to make a painful decision. We would retire from Austria in
the year 2002. This meant that 2001 would be our last full year of ministry in
Austria. We prayed that God would bless that final year. The Lord had already
been preparing us for retirement without our realizing it.
The Bible Institute we founded in 1984 purchased
property on the Danube River and moved in 1991. Our work-load with that
institution was greatly reduced. In 2001 we no longer had any official
responsibility in the school.
The need for offset printing had diminished
considerably with the arrival of computers, word processing, graphics software
and laser printers. After the Iron Curtain was dismantled in 1989-1990, Bible
smuggling ceased and presses in Eastern Europe were able to produce Christian
literature at low cost. As a result of these developments, we decided to close
our printing and publishing operations. By 2001, only a paper cutter was left.
My responsibility as Field Director for our mission
was much reduced after several couples retired or changed fields. In 2001, the
only couple on the field other than us, was also close to retirement.
The national youth organization we founded in 1987
together with a graduate of the Bible Institute, was flourishing. We had trained
about 500 Austrian leaders and neighboring countries were asking for help in
establishing their own chapters. We decided to conduct the first International
Training Camp in the summer of 2001. The camp was conducted in Slovakia and
youth workers from nine nations attended. This marked the beginning of JUROPA
in Holland, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy and several other
European countries. Today, JUROPA is organized in 17 nations!
We also had a major outreach to bicyclists in
2001. A 50-kilometer long road around Attersee Lake was closed to motorists for
a day. This annual event draws up to 50,000 cyclists. We set up a stand to offer
free juice, sandwiches and cake to the bikers. We had 80 T-shirts made and
10,000 tracts printed for distribution. A children’s choir and a Christian
bluegrass band offered to provide special music.
Ten years ago, I invested in the best multimedia setup
money could buy. I still have those four Ektapro projectors, the Stumpfl drive
unit and software, but it is practically worthless today. Sight & Sound sold its
Ektapros a few years ago for pennies on the Dollar. Ten years is a long time in
the world of technology.
Most people agree that September 11, 2001 was a day that
changed the world. Americans were unified and flags were flying everywhere.
Members of the United States Senate and Congress joined hands in silent prayer!
President George W. Bush's popularity rating soared.
Ten years later, the Muslim-born Barack Hussein Obama is
President. At many of the memorial services which take place on September 11,
2011, prayer and mention of God will be forbidden. A new "Iron Curtain" is
rapidly closing in on Christians who obey God's Word and call on others to do
the same. Reading certain passages of scripture or calling immoral acts "sin" is
considered a "hate crime" or "bullying."
America has thrived for nearly 250 years and survived two
world wars because our nation was founded on God's Word. But many Americans have
abandoned God and the Bible on which our nation was founded. A majority has
embraced the kingdom of this world, depicted as Babylon in the Bible.
President George W. Bush and Sadaam Hussein were in total
agreement that the war they fought was a war between good and evil. They only
differed about which one was Satan! Ten years after 9/11, it is clear that Satan
is on both sides. There is plenty of evil in America and God's judgment is
The twin towers of the World Trade Center were built of the
best steel on a foundation of solid rock, but they were totally destroyed by an
Arab Muslim terrorist in a couple of hours. God's judgment of that which
Americans build on sand, of wood, hay and stubble, will be much worse!
August 31, 2011
I translated my 38-page brochure into English: "Where is Civilization
Headed?" It can be downloaded or read on line under "Documents."
Ralph V. Harvey
Postscript on September 9, 2016: Towards the end of the above article I mentioned that the projector setup I used in Austria
was almost worthless. Just today, however, on September 9, 2016, five years after I wrote those
words, I sold two
of those projectors for a very good price and shipped them to Jerusalem! They will be used for art shows in Israel
and Cairo, Egypt! Experts have discovered that it is too easy to "cheat" in digital photography
so they are requiring photographers to use older style film cameras and slide projectors to
display their work if it is to be judged. No slide projectors are being made today and few
of the high quality projectors like mine are still available! On another front, millions of new
highly praised Samsung Note 7 smart phones were just recalled. Owners were warned not to use them
because a number have exploded! Technology is not the answer to the world's problems. But like the
gospel chorus says, "Jesus Never Fails!"