In good weather, retired clergyman Bob Vickers spends much of his time driving his snazzy, green sports car with the top down. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, Vickers, then Director of the Chaplaincy for the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, was in a van headed to New York, to counsel victims of the attacks. As he approached the city, Vickers was overwhelmed by the sight of billowing smoke, and the silence. “In the far distance you could hear a few sirens, but it was just, it was eerie. It was like another world that I could not imagine”, recalled Vickers. Vickers spent the next two weeks in New York counseling first responders and others. He remembers two firefighters in particular.
“They were adamant about just returning to the pile of rubble as quickly as they could because they said they were not going to leave there until they found their friends. And there was such sadness because those friends were not to be found,” said Vickers.
A consistent theme of comments was a sense of being lost, that without the Twin Towers people had no sense of direction. Vickers says the experience had an impact on his spiritual bearings.
“I’m probably a better minister now than I used to be. Hopefully I’m a better person than I was. I think there have been a number of things that have transpired in my life as a result of that, that I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but I would not have wanted to miss that for anything,” said Vickers.
After a 22 year career with the Army, followed by his stint as a chaplain in Georgia, Bob Vickers retired to his native Kentucky. Vickers will share more of his memories of 9-11 in a special memorial service in Richmond. It begins Sunday at 4pm at First Christian Church on Main Street.