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Ground Zero Remains Indescribable For Worker

By Staff | Sep 7, 2011

Pictured from left are Barbie Hickman Turner, Bob Ball, Judy Ball, and Tammie Lizon in front of the food van from which they served food near Ground Zero in the week immediately following 9/11.

Ten years after offering a warm meal, listening ear, and praying heart at Ground Zero, Barbie Hickman Turner of Paden City still doesn’t quite know how to put that experience into words.

Like other Americans and people around the world, Turner watched the events of 9/11 in horror but likely never thought she would get “the call” on Sept. 13, 2001. It was the call she had trained for, expected at some point, and warned her boss about. She could leave at a moment’s notice to help in the wake of a tragedy.

That was what she had “signed on for” when she received 72 hours of crisis disaster training through the International Health Services Foundation (IHSF) in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2000.

“For me, I thought it would just be some call to India or somewhere with a major disaster,” said Turner. She never dreamed that disaster would be in her homeland, the United States of America.

But Bob and Judy Ball of Marietta, Ohio’s Valley Harvest Church, who also attended the training in Colorado and formed an instant bond with Turner thanks to their hometowns’ close proximity, called her on Sept. 13. At 5:30 a.m. the next day they were on the road to Washington, D.C. They didn’t help at the Pentagon’s disaster site, but rather picked up a fellow IHSF worker.

This photo shows just how close their food van and prayer station was to Ground Zero. Notice the tell-tale standing lattice-like structure in the distance.

“She told us she was standing on a particular street corner, we pulled up, she jumped into the van, and we drove off for New York City,” said Turner of the quick addition to their team that also included Tammie Lizon of Marietta.

In New York City they connected with David Van Fleet of Street Life Ministries who set up a feeding station for rescue workers the day after the World Trade Center was attacked by jet-hijacking terrorists, collapsing the structure and killing nearly 3,000.

“He was one of the first responders,” said Turner of Van Fleet. The van from which the food was served was located at the corner of Church and Fulton streets, a mere 150 yards from Ground Zero at the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

As the team served the rescue and recovery workers, they found that they needed much more than just food. They needed listening ears and praying hearts. The group included certified counselors that ministered to the workers.

“Most of it was just having ears,” said Turner, adding that it helped that the team was from New York City, making those sharing their stories feel their experience was falling on fresh ears.

Barbie Hickman Turner of Paden City did not want to visit Ground Zero, saying their ministry station was close enough, at approximately 150 yards from the wreckage. But a worker convinced her that she needed to experience the wreckage—a moving experience.

Their make-shift prayer station was busy. FBI agents, police officers, rescue and recovery workers, firefighters, construction workers, and other volunteers in the vicinity came in response to the “prayer station” sign. Soon a yellow legal pad was necessary to list the prayer requests. Many came back repeatedly.

“No one was shy about asking for prayer,” said Turner. “The main thing was to be salt and light at that time.” She was referencing Matthew 5:13-16 which says in the New International Version, “You are the salt of the earth. . . You are the light of the world. . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

“They were so grateful. You know, we were there to tell them thank you, but they kept telling us,” said Turner.

On Sept. 19 she and her crew returned home as others arrived and kept up the work of feeding both body and soul at Ground Zero. “Everyone needed to get back to our jobs,” said Turner, who was working at the time as a dental hygienist for Dr. Jerry Whalen and at the clinic in Middlebourne.

While she is still part of the IHSF, Turner hasn’t responded to any more disasters with them. However she has done other mission work, notably going to an orphanage in eastern Europe almost every year since 2001 with her fellow worshippers at United Christian Fellowship in Middlebourne. This year she also went to Peru on a mission trip with Matthew 25 International.

Some rescue and recovery workers take advantage of the Prayer Station.

When not serving in other places, Turner is still a dental hygienist, working part-time with Dr. Benjamin Kocher in New Martinsville. She also conducts Walk Live classes locally, which will begin again in October.