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Minister recalls towers' collapse on 9/11

Posted September 9, 2011

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— Rev. Stuart Hoke was headed to Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal church in lower Manhattan, a decade ago when terrorists flew jets into the towers of the nearby World Trade Center.

"I had gotten on the subway, (and) it was a beautiful fall day in New York – no clouds in the sky. (When I) got off, there was smoke and debris in the air," said Hoke, who is now retired and lives in Pittsboro.

People were streaming into the church sanctuary, and he began an impromptu service.

"At two minutes till 10 (a.m.), I'm reading a portion of Christian scripture, and we hear a noise like no other noise any of us had ever heard," Hoke said. "It was the implosion of the building. It was bam, bam, bam, bam – 102 floors.

"The upper windows in the church began to crack. Thanks to a new air-conditioning system, the place filled with smoke and debris immediately. The lights went off, and the congregation tried to get under the pews," he said.

Once he realized he was still alive, he said, he remembered 80 children in the church day care and ran to gather them together to flee.

'A noise like no noise any of us had ever heard'

"We got out of the building and began walking at a brisk pace down the street, and the unthinkable occurred one more time – the second tower collapsed," he said.

Hoke said the group couldn't outrun the cloud of smoke the implosion created, but he and the children still managed to make it to safety.

"It overtook us it (and) knocked us all sorts of (directions). I think the wind speed was 200 mph, from what we were told," he said.

The incident "cracked me open in so many ways," Hoke said, but his faith survived. He said he still believes that love is the only way to respond to evil.

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