Gerry Brown Remembers 9/11

Pastor Gerry Brown Remembers September 11

Pastor Gerry Brown Remembers September 11

Pastor Gerry Brown Remembers 9/11

Story by Tom Price
Photos by Tom Price

After the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Gerry Brown, founder of U-Turn for Christ and senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Romoland in Perris, CA, felt the Lord stirring his heart. Gerry, also a chaplain, sensed the Lord moving him to secure a flight across the country from Southern California to New York City. He knew that he had words of comfort to share with so many who were hurting in the aftermath of that deadly terrorist attack that took so many lives.

He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety Job 5:11

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Gerry Brown, police chaplain and pastor of Calvary Chapel Romoland, CA, salutes as work at Ground Zero came to a halt when another body was recovered in the rubble of the Twin Towers 20 years ago.

“I had the opportunity to meet the chief of the New York Fire Department (NYFD), and he allowed me to pray for him,” Gerry remembered. “Then he asked me if I could organize the men who were meticulously combing through the seven stories of debris from the fallen towers, without regard to their personal health. The fire chief instructed me to have those first responders line up in a circle around the massive mound of debris from the buildings’ collapse. He then asked me to pray for all the emergency workers and the families of those who lost their loved ones.” Gerry prayed that the Lord would give him the right words that would comfort those who were overwhelmed with grief as they valiantly continued their grisly task of recovering human remains in the midst the burnt concrete and mangled steel beams.

Gerry later partnered with other Calvary Chapel pastors in the grueling days to come—Roger Stahlhut of CC Open Door in Anaheim, CA; Joe Paskewich of CC Uncasville, CT; and Tom Price, editor of Calvary Chapel Magazine. Entering the sacred Ground Zero as chaplains, the group ministered to many first responders still trying to comprehend the gravity of their loss.

A young lieutenant with a blank stare from the NYFD stumbled past the group. Gerry called out to him, “Hey, are you all right?” The young man answered affirmatively, but it was easy for the men to see that he was not. “So, really, how are you dealing with all of this?” the men asked. The lieutenant stopped, gathered his thoughts, and thought back to that recent Tuesday morning on September 11.

The young man related that he had just arrived at the burning towers with his captain. Over the years that they had worked together, the lieutenant had always admired the captain’s cool demeanor and quick thinking that he displayed at each crisis they encountered. September 11 was no different. The firemen noticed that just outside the building, bodies were falling as people jumped to their deaths, rather than be burned alive in the flaming inferno above the floors where the planes had struck. The fire captain instructed his men to help him cover the dead. Then the towers began to shake and moan.

The young man continued, “Captain yelled for everyone to run, so I took off as fast as I could and managed to get beyond the area where the towers fell. We were knocked over by a powerful blast of heavy ash that made breathing nearly impossible and cut visibility to zero. All of us got separated …”

The lieutenant stopped and looked off into the direction of the debris. The silence that followed seemed an appropriate tribute to those who were lost. The lieutenant gathered his thoughts and finished.

“And we never saw the captain again …”

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Gerry was asked by the chief of police to pray for the New York police officers.

Gerry and Roger politely interrupted the silence as the young man’s voice had trailed off. “Was your captain a believer in Christ?” the men asked gently. The lieutenant replied, “Yes, he was always sharing with me and the other men how we could have eternal life by surrendering our lives to Jesus.” The men explained that it would honor the captain if the young lieutenant would accept the Lord’s free gift of salvation on the spot where the fire captain had perished. Gerry led the lieutenant in prayer and assured him that he would indeed see his captain again, who was enjoying being in the presence of God, in heaven.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Ministry Beyond 9/11

Gerry commented recently, “What a privilege it has been to be a part of bringing comfort to those that have been so devastated by tragedies like 9/11. We shared the love of God with family members who lost loved ones.” After ministering at the World Trade Center in New York, Gerry and U-Turn for Christ were instrumental in bringing comfort and relief to other events. During the responses to hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, they organized a warehouse to distribute goods, tools, and food to the different teams ministering to those in the devastated areas.

The mudslide that killed thousands in the Philippines led Gerry to be invited by the governor to form a team that would minister to all those who had lost loved ones when the mud buried entire villages.

After helping for six months after the horrific tsunami in Thailand, U-Turn for Christ was chosen by the government to take care of all the children orphaned when their parents were swept away. The relief group eventually erected a huge tent as many Calvary Chapels and other Christian organizations came to help.

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

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Gerry teams up with Pastor Roger Stahlhut from Calvary Chapel Downey, CA, and others at Ground Zero. They had to wear masks because of the dust in the air.

Gerry recollected a devastating typhoon that struck the Philippines, on the east side of Samar island. “Three of our missionary churches were devastated, while many of the congregation lost their homes. One native Calvary Chapel pastor, Jerome, dove into the water to save two little girls who had been swept out to sea and were drowning.” Gerry is grateful to the Lord that U-Turn for Christ could help restore churches and be a beacon in the community.

“Our God is a God of restoration,” remarked Gerry. “We are thankful to have been available to comfort so many who have been hurting or in mourning through the years, as we share the love of Christ with them. It has been our greatest privilege!”

“These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.