For ex-firefighter, 9/11 is now about ministry
Ned Parker was a firefighter on Sept. 11, 2001. Ten years later, he's being ordained as a minister.
How 6 local lives changed after 9/11
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The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, caused profound shock, horror, fear, anger and sorrow for Americans — and for some, lasting change. Six Puget Sound-area residents tell us how the events of that day played out in their lives.
Ned Parker's first shift as a firefighter, in Amherst, Mass., started at 6 p.m. on a day history will never forget.
Parker's department didn't have many calls that evening, Sept. 11, 2001, and hadn't been asked to assist in New York's catastrophe, leaving those at Parker's station helplessly transfixed by endless TV replays of the World Trade Center towers collapsing, dooming hundreds of their fellow firefighters.
"Their reaction to losing so many people in that brotherhood was intimate. There was a sense that we all just wanted to jump on a truck and head down there, but sometimes that just adds more confusion to the chaos," said Parker, who was 25 at the time.
Parker, a Maine native whose parents are both Baptist ministers, had been a church-camp director and had traveled on church missions to the Dominican Republic. He went into firefighting with the intention of becoming a fire-department chaplain after he gained a fundamental understanding of the fire service.
"But you could say my chaplaincy started a little early."
On that first shift, he tried to be a compassionate listener, helping firefighters work through their feelings. He didn't talk directly about religion. That would have been difficult, he said, with news accounts indicating all this death, destruction, heartache and pain was the byproduct of religious zealotry.
A few Amherst firefighters later went to New York to help out on their own time. Others, including Parker, helped raise money so the New York Fire Department could replace some of its bagpipes, worn out from playing at so many 9/11 memorial services.
In 2005, Parker entered the seminary and on his graduation last year, he was hired as pastor for children, families and young adults at Seattle First Baptist Church, part of an association of Baptist churches known for a progressive theology.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, he will be ordained as a minister at the church.
In accepting Lead Pastor Tim Phillips' suggestion of this emotionally charged day for his formal entry into the ministry, Parker said he'd like to spread the message that religion shouldn't be something that turns people against one another.
"We need to remind ourselves that there can be a unity among the faiths, that we can work together, and be at peace."
— Jack Broom, Seattle Times staff reporter
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