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N.M. minister finds a place in helping NYC’s 9-11 victims

ROSWELL, N.M. (BP)–When Jason Kraft heard about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the shocking loss of lives in far-off New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, he was overwhelmed with a burden that God wanted him to go minister to victims of the tragedy — and so he did.

When he returned home a week later, he was thanking God for the opportunities he had been given.

Kraft, youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Roswell, N.M., and a local police chaplain, said despite the strong feeling that God wanted him to travel more than halfway across the country to minister to the victims, he also could not hold back thoughts of all the reasons he should not go.

What’s a person to do when he finds himself struggling with a decision like that?

Kraft called his father in Albuquerque, Ed Kraft, a member of Sandia Baptist Church. Ed Kraft, too, could think of all kinds of reasons why it would be a bad idea, but he also admitted to having the same overwhelming feeling that God didn’t want him sitting at home watching the events on TV, that God also wanted him at the scene of the tragedy.

Within 24 hours of the attacks, Jason and Ed Kraft were headed east.

The two arrived in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon, where they would spend the next four nights with the father of Kraft’s wife, Renee, taking a commuter train each day to Penn Station in New York City.

On Saturday, they walked to the armory at Lexington and 6th, where Family Support Services was set up. There, Jason Kraft spoke with Red Cross officials, offering his services as a police chaplain. Amazingly, though there were hundreds of people lined up wanting to help, there were no other trained Protestant police chaplains. Kraft was ushered through the crowd into the armory, where they put a chaplain’s vest on him and put him to work while his dad had to wait outside.

That day, the armory was filled with anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 family members of victims, police personnel and Red Cross volunteers. The place was a beehive of activity, as family members were seeking information about missing loved ones and giving DNA samples. Kraft’s assignment was to wander through the crowd, ministering to police and distraught family members.

“I talked with scores and scores of police,” Kraft told the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. One of his most draining responsibilities, he said, was accompanying family members to a room where a growing list of the dead was posted.

After spending Saturday and Sunday in the armory, Kraft was asked to report to “ground zero,” the site of the collapsed towers and other buildings of the World Trade Center. Again, his father was unable to get through the perimeter, this time because he had a camera.

At ground zero, Jason Kraft was struck by the eerie silence there. “I couldn’t believe the silence,” he said. “It was dead silence.”

Kraft ended up at the staging area for workers, where he was given a hard hat and a gas mask. Echoing the words of many in recent days, he said the rubble at the site was “incredible.” Nothing on television or in print media can prepare a person for the sight, he said.

During his two hours at ground zero, Kraft wandered around and talked with six police personnel. It was so emotionally draining, Kraft said, he was unable to stay any longer.

Later, recalling the horror of his brief experience at ground zero, Kraft lamented that people are going to be working there “for months and months and months.”

Kraft still looks back on the morning of Sept. 11 and admits that he didn’t have a clue why he should go; he just knew the Spirit inside of him told him to go. When he got there, it still didn’t make any sense, he said; the place was overrun with grief counselors, and officials were having to turn them away. But that weekend at the armory in New York City, as the only Protestant chaplain available, left Kraft grateful he went.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: STIRRED TO GO, SMOLDERING.

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  • John Loudat