Read the whole article in the Times, edited extracts from Rowan’s Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop by Rupert Shortt:
On September 11, 2001, Rowan Williams was due to address 22 spiritual directors from across the US in a church-owned building next to Holy Trinity, Wall Street [New York], on “the shape of a holy life”, and reached the venue, 74 Trinity Place, at 8.35am. His host was the Rev Fred Burnham, director of the Trinity Institute, an educational foundation attached to the neighbouring church. The two went up to the 21st floor. Burnham was sitting in his office when the World Trade Centre’s north tower was hit at 9.03am; and even though Flight 11 came from the opposite direction (Trinity Place is south of Ground Zero), the noise sounded like a sonic boom. Burnham raced to the room where Rowan was and cried that “some cowboy” had just gone through the sound barrier. Then came a scream: one of the secretaries could see what had happened through her window. Burnham, Rowan and the others joined her to look. Though aghast, they assumed that the crash was accidental.
After a few minutes of watching smoke spurt from the north tower and debris flying by, they decided to go down to the studio where Rowan would give his speech. It was not until the second tower had been hit that everything changed.
Suddenly, as Burnham recalled later: “We knew we were in the middle of a war zone and this was not a happy day.” Burt Medley, one of his colleagues, suggested that the Archbishop be asked to lead prayers, and this happened almost spontaneously. Rowan’s words were like balm; the group began to feel more composed. Not only did he pray about the obvious things – the loss of life, the general anguish – he also began to lift up to God the anxieties of everyone in the room.