I was still in college at the time so like any good college student I woke up at 9:00. I was taking a semester off from classes for a mandatory internship with a company in town, but I didn’t start for another week so I was killing time that week.
All my roommates had early classes so I was the only one in the apartment at the time. We didn’t watch television much so our little 13-incher sat unused most of the time. I was happily enjoying breakfast when my sister called.
“Hey Stephanie, aren’t you supposed to be in class?”
“Darren,” she said with a shaky voice, “the World Trade Center just collapsed. They ran planes into it.”
That’s just morbid, I thought. You don’t joke about this kind of thing. I really thought she was pulling my leg.
“Sure they did, sis. Sure they did,” I calmly replied. I was sure she was joking and there was some bigger prank tied into it. That’s just how we rolled.
“No, really. Turn on the TV.”
I turned on our little white television and the tube buzzed to life. It was very old so the picture took almost a full minute to come to life, but the audio came on instantly. The tone in the news woman’s voice instantly sent shivers down my spine.
When the picture came on the first thing I saw was the video loop we’ve all seen a thousand times since then. I watched as Tower 2 collapsed and I fell to my knees. I’m not sure if I ever hung up the phone or said good-bye.
I watched in horror as those two buildings collapsed. I was angry at myself for waking up so late. The world was crumbling around me and I hadn’t even been awake for when they fell.
All I could think was “why hadn’t I done something about it?”
I had just come back from my mission trip to Japan and I was ready to turn the world upside down. I’d just arrived back in College Station and my friends and I were going to the international student housing witnessing to the newcomers from all over the globe.
It was a great time and I was enjoying some of the best prayer times in my life. I’d never enjoyed my walk with Jesus more. Saturday evening, August 25th I’d been praying about our college church group before going to bed. I really wanted God to speak to me about our service the next morning. I asked God to show me what He was thinking about for them.
When I finished my prayer time I went and laid down in my bed. I said a quick prayer I’ll never forget just before my head hit the pillow.
“God, I’m Yours. Speak to me as You will.”
When I laid down and closed my eyes, immediately I saw a vision. I’d never experienced anything like this before. I was still fully awake, but I was seeing something on the back of my eyelids as if it were a movie in front of me. I’d always heard of people talk about visions and sometimes I wondered if it was just their imagination. This was not my imagination.
I saw someone wrapped up like a mummy, desperately trying to get out of their bandages. I couldn’t hear anything, but the person was wrapped so tightly I could see the expression on their face. The person was in great agony and he was on fire. The fire was causing the person to writhe about and scream, but I heard no noise. I could see through the bandages a mouth open and close as if to shout “Help! Help me!” Then the vision ended.
I was so disturbed by what I saw that I sat up in bed and opened my eyes. I thought to myself, “what was that?” I pondered what it meant. Could God be telling me that someone at the college student church service tomorrow felt like they were wrapped up, burning and dying? Was someone silently crying out for help?
I laid back down and went to sleep. The next morning I pondered what it meant and went to church. I told our college pastor that I thought someone there might feel like they were trapped and burning and crying out for help. In the end I thought even if I had interpreted the vision wrong, that’s always a safe bet for emotional college students. A few people responded and went forward for prayer at the end.
I was still perplexed by what I saw. I had taken a stab at interpreting the vision, but I wasn’t sure I was right. The vision had been so gruesome I am still disturbed to this day when I think about it.
A week had passed and I was a little discouraged. I was ready to start my internship, but the company had some “big things” come up and they kept pushing my start date back. Instead of being at work for a week now, it was going to be another two before I started. I was afraid they were going to back out on me and I was going to have blown a semester off of college and still have to get another internship.
I prayed that evening and asked God to break in for me. I needed the company to let me start because as it was I would barely have enough weeks at work for my internship to count. I told the Lord I trusted Him because He’d never let me down before.
As I climbed into bed I thought about the previous Saturday evening. I remembered my prayer and I thought I’d try it again. Maybe the Lord would speak to me again about something through another vision.
I’m not right very often but when I am sometimes I think it’s worse than being wrong. I prayed my little prayer and put my head on my pillow and closed my eyes. Just like the Saturday night before I instantly had a vision.
This time I saw people’s faces passing in front of me from right to left. They weren’t mummified but there was fire in the background just like the week before. As each new face passed in front of me they would get closer for a moment and scream out in agony then they would shrink back as they passed out of sight. Each new face was a new tortured soul crying out in pain for help. Their pain was so great that when they shouted at me they almost seemed to have jaws like snakes they opened so wide.
I hadn’t thought it would be possible, but this vision was far more disturbing than the week before. When the vision ended I had seen probably 20-30 faces crying out to me. They were burning and in agony. I couldn’t figure out how that had anything to do with our college ministry but I figured God had spoken to me about them since I asked.
The next morning I again reported to my college pastor that I felt like there might be people who feel like their world is on fire and they need help. Both Sundays he relayed that and there was a good response during the prayer time, so I thought I’d done well. I thought it was God’s answer to my prayers.
The WHOLE Story
At the time I didn’t know any better, but now I know that when I have a dream or vision it’s always important to not just relay what I think may be the interpretation but also to tell exactly what I saw.
Even after the several dreams I’d had that turned out to be literal I still thought that most of what God gives us is supposed to be vaguely figurative and hard to understand. A lot of times it is, but we never fully know so it’s always better to tell the WHOLE story.
I don’t know what would have changed if I had told my college pastor what I had seen. Maybe nothing. Maybe God would have shown to everyone how much He loves us and likes to share what’s on His mind with us. I’ll never know.
The evening of September 8th I went to bed knowing what was going to happen. Two Saturday nights in a row I’d had visions just after my head hit the pillow. I had the formula. I knew what would happen tonight.
I said my prayer and I put my head on the pillow and closed my eyes.
I waited for a moment and then I sat back up and opened my eyes.
“That didn’t work,” I thought to myself. “I’ll try it again. Maybe I just need another go at it. Lord, I’m Yours. Speak to me as You will.”
I know now that’s silly and at the time I felt a little silly doing it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I laid my head back on the pillow and closed my eyes again. Again, I saw nothing.
“Well, it happened twice and that’s all,” I mused. “That’s okay. I know you love me Lord. I love You too,” I prayed.
I drifted off to sleep convinced the Lord had chosen not to speak to me that night. Just then I opened my eyes and I was in Manhattan. At least, I thought I was. I’ve never been there but from all the pictures I’d seen it looked just like it. It was so real I didn’t know it was a dream. This was one of the most vivid and real dreams I’ve ever had. It’s also the only dream I’ve ever had with an angel.
I walked along the streets of Southern Manhattan with a guide. He was a man about 6-foot tall wearing a white robe. I knew then he was an angel and that didn’t seem surprising to me in the dream. In fact, I felt very comfortable with him.
A City So Nice They Named It Twice
I’m a construction guy and I’ve always wanted to visit New York. I don’t know why I never have, but it’s just never happened. I’ve been to LA, Tokyo, London, Istanbul and many other large cities, but never New York–the city I’ve always been most fascinated by. I’d always wanted to stroll the streets and look up at the buildings that would dwarf me.
But most of all, I’d wanted to go to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. I’d wanted to know what it felt like to stand atop New York and gaze out across the vast sea of concrete and contemplate how cool it was that God let man realize such a dream like New York.
All this was a running monologue with my angel guide. I was following him and my mouth was just running. I was the chattiest I’d ever been in my whole life. I was telling him of all the places I’d longed to visit in New York. He never said a word which left the door open for me to talk all the more. I kept telling him how excited I was to finally be in New York. There were so many places I’d longed to see.
He was intense, though. He never spoke and he seemed completely gripped by something. He was leading me along as we walked side by side but he wasn’t interested at all in my conversation. A couple of times I’m sure I saw him glance over at me and roll his eyes. It didn’t bother me, though, and I kept talking.
Then he abruptly stopped. He turned and gazed at the twin towers of the World Trade Center. When he stopped I finally shut up. I looked at his eyes and saw pain. He held out his hand with an open palm as if to point at the towers. I followed the end of his extended hand out to see the towers.
He was so intense I didn’t say another word, I just stood there and watched. I didn’t know what he wanted me to see. Everything looked normal, just as I’d seen it in photos.
Just then, both towers began to collapse. They descended straight down into the ground. I was shocked and perplexed because I thought a tall building like that would fall over if it collapsed, but they both went straight down.
My eyes felt like they were bulging out of my head. Suddenly there were thousands of terrified people streaming towards us. They raced past us as we both stood silently still. Their faces were unforgettable. I’ve never seen such terror before.
But I was unmoved by the situation. I couldn’t feel what was going on. I was emotionless except for the feeling of being cheated. With thousands running past us in shock and terror I turned to my angel guide and said the dumbest thing to ever come out of my mouth.
I look back on it now and I think the poor angel felt like he drew the short straw with me just then. He was completely gripped by the situation except when I said that. He seemed to hang his head in exasperation. When I saw that I instantly realized the gravity of the situation. Suddenly, I was aware of what was happening.
This was serious. My attitude changed and now I could see clearly. The World Trade Center had just collapsed and the city was completely in shock.
Now that I got it the angel seemed a little less put out with me. He lowered his hand by his side but never stopped looking away from the site. The people weren’t rushing by anymore. Then he raised his hand again. I looked back and in the place of the World Trade Center a small white building was built in it’s place.
I saw it built in about 5 seconds and on top they placed an amphitheater. The building was only about 5 stories tall and people began to gather on the roof and a worship concert broke out. I could hear the people singing worship songs to God for His provision.
I felt hope that in the place of devastation there was worship and thankfulness to God but I was disappointed that the building was so small. I felt let down that it seemed so few people showed up to thank God for His goodness. The dream ended on that note and I awoke already in prayer asking God to raise up worship for Himself in New York.
Making Sense of It All
When I realized I was awake, I began to ponder the dream. It was so real, so vivid that it was hard to separate reality from dream. I knew it was a dream, though and I couldn’t figure out what it meant beyond being for our college group again. I had awaken early on the morning of Sunday, September 9th and I figured God must be again speaking to me about our group.
The next morning I told our college pastor that I thought maybe there were people in the room who “felt like their world was falling down.” I so wish now I’d told someone what I’d seen. I feel so stupid not telling anyone the actual dream. It’s a mistake that I don’t think has happened since.
I didn’t think anything of the dream again until I heard the words on the news that morning. Before the picture on our old tube television ever came on I remembered my dream. Then when I saw what happened that terrible day in New York I’m pretty sure I dropped the phone. It was surreal. I think I heard my sister’s faint voice in the background.
I sat there glued to the television for the next 6 hours it seemed. Over and over again I couldn’t let go of the thought that was going through my head.
Why hadn’t I said anything? Why hadn’t I called someone? Why did God show me that and then allow me to do nothing?
I felt horrible. I thought I’d let God down. I thought He showed me something so I could save thousands of lives and I’d failed. That evening I drove my car to the emptiest parking lot in town and I just cried. I cried for hours. So many people died and I did nothing. I said nothing. I felt like I had blood on my hands.
What Do We Do With Dreams?
It took me months to get over that feeling of devastation. It took years for me to realize that if I had called anyone, I’d probably be sitting in Guantanamo right now. Months afterward I realized that there wasn’t anything I could have done. Nobody in New York was going to listen to some college student in Texas about a premonition he had about the most iconic buildings in the city.
Furthermore, I didn’t even know when that was going to happen. I could have called Mayor Giuliani and evacuated the towers but I had no clue when it would happen. God didn’t tell me the dream was literal and He didn’t tell me it was going to happen two days later. I could have been 10 years later for all I knew.
Every evening when I came home from work (which finally started) I pondered all this. I had to put it out of my mind during work or it consumed me and the emotions overcame me. I think I cried every evening for months. I was just too sure I had failed God.
When I finally had the epiphany that nothing I could have done would have changed anything, I wondered why God would have shown me all that. Why would God tell me something I wasn’t supposed to act on?
I’ve since come to understand that not everything God does has to make sense at the time. Sometimes God tells us things because He calls us friends.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
Sometimes God just wants to share what’s on His heart with a friend. Other times there’s a long lead-time to understand what’s really going on.
It took a while, but I finally felt peace about that day. God knew what was going to happen and He was grieved about it. The angel was so intense, I believe, because he knew the events weren’t going to be stopped. People were going to die and God’s heart was moved over it.
My visions had been a precursor to my dream. I had seen the misery that caused people to choose to leap to their death head first from those buildings instead of burning to death. What a terrible moment and it was all on God’s heart.
I’m not going to debate whether it was God or Satan that caused 9/11 because frankly I’m still not sure. In fact, I don’t really care to know. What I do know is that the heart of a compassionate God was moved with sadness over the events of that day. I’m sure God knew then what we know now: that the events of September 11, 2001 would unleash on earth a new level of war, pain and destruction that hasn’t ended to this day.
I believe that most of the dream is obviously literal. I can’t tell you how close the actual events resembled what I saw in my dream. But the little building that grew up in place of the towers never happened. I think this was a figurative part of the dream. Whereas New York has in almost every way grown further away from God in the past decade, I think for a short time there was quite a revival in the Big Apple. Immediately after the tragedy there was a sense of awe and wonder of God. Many put their faith in Him in the days following, but compared to the overall size of the city I think it was small and short-lived. But small and short as it was, it was very important to God. There are numerous accounts of God moving people to New York at just the right time and they reaped a harvest.
Men like Nelson Searcy of The Journey Church and countless others moved to Manhattan just in time for God to use them as part of that little white building He was raising up for worship.
Even though I felt peace about my dream I still questioned God almost daily as to why He showed me. I got my answer a little over a year later and it wasn’t until 2011 that it’s all made sense, but I’ll tell that story next time…
…But if you’d like to cheat, you can read an account I posted a while back.