9/11 - Twenty Years Later

I wrote much of this article soon after our 9/11 experience and updated it in 2011 and again on September 9, 2016 for the 10th and 15th anniversaries.

On Sunday morning, September 11th, exactly fifteen years after the tragic events that shook our nation and the world, we flew from Philadelphia to Kansas City for a conference. Not many people wanted to fly on 9/11 so the round trip ticket was extremely cheap and there were a number of empty seats. Were we fearful? No. We often faced danger in four decades of missionary service. When God is finished with us he will call us home no matter where we are.

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 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 still serving as missionaries in Austria on September 11, 2001. We had been in Switzerland from Saturday though Monday where I was keynote speaker at a Bible Conference in Basel. After a strenuous week and the train ride home, we felt the need for exercise. We enjoyed daily walks in the lovely area around our home in Frankenmarkt, Upper Austria just to stay fit. The sun was shining at 2:30 PM (8:30 AM in New York), so instead of the normal half-hour walk, we decided to take a longer route of about three kilometers (1.8 miles).

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 phone.

When we first moved to Frankenmarkt 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 their 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!

We didn't have a television. The monthly fees and taxes for TV were simply too high for our budget. 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 other.

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 worked.

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 more 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!

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 slide projectors and a cassette player that provided sound and also sent signals to change pictures. Finally, I prepared a number of "Chalk Talks" with evangelistic messages.


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.

In 1996, 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 and video projector.

This was state-of-the -art technology, the cutting edge of multimedia!

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 and tackle and wooden rollers.
3) A third segment depicted the American entertainment industry, with its theme parks, Hollywood show business and even churches and restaurants that offer entertainment.
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 beard).
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.

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 llaser 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 is 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 coming.

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 under "Documents" from our website, www.rvharvey.org

Ralph V. Harvey

Postscript: Towards the end of the above article I mentioned that the projector setup I used in Austria was almost worthless. On September 9, 2016, however, five years after I wrote those words, I sold two of my projectors for $750 each to an art museum in 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 recently 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!"