NEW YORK (BP)–Ten years after 9/11, Freeman Field and his father Taylor agree that what terrorists intended for evil produced a life-changing harvest of good for the younger Field.
“For Freeman, the experience itself was spiritually a turning point,” Taylor Field, a North American Mission Board missionary in New York, told Baptist Press. “He was, I would say, a missionary’s son and went through the motions. But … that was really the time he stepped up to the plate. What we see now after 10 years is that he really dedicated himself to the Lord and began to speak about what God was doing in his life.”
In 2001 Freeman Field was a senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York two blocks from the World Trade Center. On the morning of Sept. 11 he heard two airplanes hit the Twin Towers and felt the collapse of the first tower before being evacuated from the school. As he fled, the second building collapsed, and he found himself running through the streets to escape a massive cloud of smoke billowing toward him.
About the same time, Taylor Field, pastor and director of East Seventh Baptist Church-Graffiti in Lower Manhattan, was frantically riding a bicycle toward the World Trade Center because he had heard that students were being released only if their parents came to get them. When he arrived at the school, however, Freeman was not there and no one knew his location. Thankfully, by the end of the day their entire family made it home safely.
That day radically altered Freeman’s path in life.
“When I was growing up, there was a church track that I had and then my regular high school track. I saw them as two separate things,” he told BP. Sept. 11 “helped me to be able to go from the knowledge of Christ to living it out in everything that I do.”
Immediately following the tragedy, Freeman Field brought 14 friends from his high school football team to his family’s apartment because they could not travel to their own homes, and he volunteered to feed rescue workers at Ground Zero. But that was only the beginning of the attack’s impact on him.
As friends began to ask spiritual questions, Field resolved to let his life become a testimony to the difference Jesus can make and began sharing his testimony at churches and youth conferences. Then an interview with Baptist Press opened a door for him to participate in “TruthQuest,” a joint project involving Baptist Press, FamilyNet Television and the B&H Publishing arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. In TruthQuest, Field and 11 other teens worked on missions projects in California for 10 days and had their adventures chronicled in a 13-episode series on FamilyNet.
“For me that was a big deal because I had just come from this place in New York City where it was very non-Christian,” he said. “I just had zero Christian peers while I was growing up. So to go on this trip where I was able to interact with people that loved Christ and were also normal teenagers really let me see that I could follow Christ and be able to still have relationships with people.”
He remembered that lesson in college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he continued to surround himself with Christian friends. After graduation in 2006, he began work at a church marketing company in Austin, Texas, and later earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He married in 2009 and continued to live in Texas.
In August, he and his wife Candace moved back to New York to work for the Metro New York Baptist Association in hosting mission teams that come to the city to do ministry. Field also planned to continue working for the church marketing company.
“Now he’s in Christian ministry, and I don’t know what his trajectory would have been if [9/11] hadn’t happened,” Taylor Field said, adding, “There is to me a connection between 9/11 and [Freeman’s new ministry]. So I’m very grateful that God has used even that terrible, terrible thing for good for our family.”
Over the past decade, father and son have continued to reflect together on the tragedy. Some memories remain vivid, they said.
“What I remember most vividly was being right at Ground Zero, trying to get to the high school and walking into that dust cloud and really not being able to see more than two feet in front of me, having a shirt wrapped around my face so that I could breathe. And the thing I remember so vividly is how eerily quiet it was,” Taylor Field said. “… I think I realize now that there was a light dust that had gathered on the ground, and it was almost like snow.”
Freeman Field’s memories become vivid when he sees video from 2001.
“I think [memories] have faded a little bit,” he said. “But there are certain images that are very vivid. I think when I see footage and I hear some of the sounds from it, it definitely comes back pretty vividly for me.”
Many of their reflections together have focused on the uncertainty they experienced as events unfolded and the impact of the day on Freeman’s life.
Though Freeman said his thoughts about 9/11 are largely the same today as they were 10 years ago, his father had a change of perspective as time went by. Though he was angry initially, Taylor Field realized later that he needed to have a more constructive attitude.
“What’s changed is realizing that we all have a chance to be heroes now,” Taylor Field said of the opportunities to minister in the wake of 9/11. “We all have a chance to do something good.”
Coming back to New York, Freeman Field hopes to continue his ministry of good by impacting the city where he was so impacted a decade ago.
“He’s a God that is good even in the midst of terrible circumstances,” Freeman Field said.
David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.