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Valleydale Baptist Church celebrates with NYC policemancomment (0)

July 11, 2002

By Sondra Washington

To celebrate Independence Day, New York City police officer Brian O’Neill spoke on patriotism and 9/11 during the pre-July 4 services at Valleydale Baptist Church, Birmingham.
O’Neill, an 18-year veteran of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), is a youth officer with the city’s 20th Precinct located on the upper west side of Manhattan, about four miles from Ground Zero, a 16-acre disaster zone.
Since Sept. 11, O’Neill has noticed a tremendous rise in patriotism and a new respect for the military, police and firefighters.

“Nobody has seen anything like it since Pearl Harbor,” he said. “It’s well overdue to start seeing flags flying everywhere. The whole country has gotten together and been praying for us and showing us support. We’re getting love from everywhere, and Alabama is a big part of that.”
The 9/11 attacks and constant terrorist threats have changed the role of the NYPD causing a tenfold increase in their responsibilities and workload and a decrease in their family time, he noted.
“My personal experience is that I’m getting through it because I have Christ in my life,” said O’Neill, who lost many friends in the tragedy and has worked regularly at Ground Zero for the past 10 months. “It’s truly amazing what He’s doing for me and how He’s helped me after all the things I’ve had to do.”
For the first four days after the attacks, O’Neill did not leave Ground Zero. He states that over the past few months, he has attended so many funerals and memorial services that he can no longer stand to hear “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes.
“God uses these trials to teach us something,” he said. “It brings us closer together, it strengthens our character, it makes us more like Him and it allows us to witness to others. There’s never been a better time to share our faith and show people that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Light.”
O’Neill visited Valleydale through a partnership between Birmingham Baptist Association (BBA) and Metropolitan Baptist Association in New York.
The partnership began when the Birmingham association sent about 1,500 cards and letters to the chaplains, police officers and firefighters in New York. Soon after, an offering of $70,000 was given to the New York association for their work in disaster relief.
“We’re all about Kingdom ministry,” said Butch Henderson, congregational consultant for BBA.
“We’ve always done well as Southern Baptists in foreign missions and in North American missions, but what we’ve got to do is see how we can partner together and use the talents of those folks in the New York area that are believers. They can help us in the South overcome some things and also be able to minister better, and we can do the same thing there.”
During the next five years, BBA plans to send volunteers to New York and possibly provide equipment that would help them with their jobs. In return, the New York association may send workers to Birmingham to assist the association with its language outreach ministry.

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