It was a day of reflection in Claremore Sunday, as the congregation of First Baptist Church commemorated the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks in a 9/11 Remembrance Service.
In a service honoring both the fallen and the heroes of the day, including recognition of local military and law officers, guest speakers included Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and World Trade Center attack survivor Brock Rowlett of Verdigris.
“As horrific as that day was, there’s a lot that’s come out of it for me,” Rowlett told the congregation. “Obviously, the respect that I have for our military, for our first responders, our firefighters that to me, as bad as that day was, was a positive I took from that day, as horrible as it was for me, for all of us.
“For me, probably the most important thing was I realized that some people call it ‘fate’, some people call it ‘luck’ for me, I choose to call it God working anonymously,” he said. “I had about five different points from the 61st floor to the time I was actually safe that things could have been different and I wouldn’t have been standing here today.
“From choosing to go to the staircase instead of the elevators, from the time when they came over the loudspeaker and told us all to go back to our offices and I chose not to, from the time it was so smoky in the staircase, it crossed my mind to exit on one of the floors and I didn’t and I don’t know why, but that’s one of those things that, in retrospect, you realize was God working anonymously,” he said. “Truly, the people we, myself included, should be most thankful for are the police officers, the firefighters, and the military, because without them there, I never would have gotten out. That’s just a simple fact.
“You know, I might have a story, but these men and women are the true heroes,” he said. “Back then, I was a scared 23-year-old kid running out of a building on fire. These people, the police, the firemen, the military, were the only ones running into it, and I think we all need to have a healthy respect for that.”
Following Rowlett’s remarks, morning service featured the presentation of the flags and special music, including a respectful playing of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipe.
“It’s good to be back in Zebra country, in Hillcat country. I think I have more Hillcat clothing more than anybody who lives outside Rogers County. Thank you, Dr. (Larry) Rice,” Lamb said, acknowledging the law enforcement officers in the congregation as well as Sen. Sean Burrage, with whom he was seated.
“I have to thank you all for sending Sen. Burrage to the state capital,” Lamb said. “I’m not sure how our voting records match up, but I can tell you without hesitation that Sen. Burrage is absolutely unwavering in his commitment and his conviction to the sanctity of human life.”
Following additional personal anecdotes, Lamb turned his attention to the commemoration of the World Trade Center attacks.
“We came here today to worship, and we came to remember those who were senselessly taken from us that day by evil,” he said. “9/11 for me really began months earlier. Spring of 2009, after a few years in the United States Secret Service and conducting criminal investigations of white collar crimes and traveling internationally protecting President Clinton, I was appointed to what’s referred to as the JTTF, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, counter-terrorism surveillance and information gathering — that was in the spring of 2009.
“It was just months later that Sept. 11 struck our country,” he continued. “The evening of Sept. 10, I was out late conducting surveillance and when you do that, you flex your next day, which means you still get your eight hours but you go in late the next day, so you’ll still be sharp and ready after staying out almost all night,” he said.
“So, the morning of Sept. 11, our son who was then 18-months old was home, (wife) Monica was home, and I loaded (son) Griffin up in his little red wagon to take a walk in our neighborhood, pulling him in his wagon. It looked like Mayberry.
“As the walk was ending, we came to the house and I saw Monica in the driveway, I could tell something was wrong by her expression,” he said. “She had this look on her face, and said that my pager — remember those? — was going crazy — something had happened in New York.
“I looked at the pager and I had calls from New York, from D.C., from Oklahoma, my field office, so I called headquarters and they told me to check in,” he said. “I reported to the office, the morning of 9/11 watching, as we all did, the evil unfold on television. I met with my FBI counterpart, who was my partner on the JTTF, we hopped in the car and met with who would be an informant.
“This informant, whom we met in the parking lot of a supermarket, literally dove into our back seat, and he stayed on the floorboard, as he didn’t want anyone he knew to see him with us,” he said. “We drove around and he began to tell us things he’d heard, directly or indirectly, to help us begin to put the pieces of that morning together.”
Lamb said he and his partners then began their investigation into the attacks, the terrorists, and the attackers, an investigation, he said, which continues to this day.
“When I was at the CIA headquarters being trained for the JTTF, we’d been briefed, shown things, hard physical evidence and videos that there were people in the world who didn’t like us. People who wanted to kill us,” he said. “It’s been 10 years now. As believers, as men and women, children of God, I believe it’s an appropriate question to ask ourselves ‘Now what?’
“Where do we go from here? What do we do from here?’,” he said. “Do we continue to remember the personal stories like that of Mr. Rowlett? Where do we give our attention? My focus has been for some time in the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah. If I can say, it was a Biblical 9/11, which spurred Nehemiah and his conviction to go forward and to be the man of God that God had wanted him to be, to answer the call on his life.
“Al-Qaeda didn’t knock down the World Trade Center because they didn’t like the architectural design. They didn’t knock it down because it stood for the economic backbone of our country,” he said. “Those buildings were knocked down because of what we stand for as a country, because we claim to be a Christian country, a God-fearing country.”
Lamb concluded by reading from the book of Nehemiah, wherein Nehemiah learns of the knocking down of the Wall of Jerusalem but, after weeping and praying, he purposes to act.
“Nehemiah’s calling should be our calling, a calling to act,” Lamb said. “Nehemiah didn’t ask other people to rebuild the wall (of Jerusalem). He prayed and he personally became engaged, something each of us needs to be — engaged and committed.”