We were in Las Vegas where Bill was holding a crusade when the phone rang. It was our son Franklin calling from the Las Vegas airport: “I’m on my way to L.A., Dad, and it looks like the MGM Hotel is on fire.”

We switched on the TV. Between the normal program segments came sporadic announcements. The fire, they announced, was under control.

We stepped outside. Our motel faced the opposite direction, but over the rooftop, in the distance, hung an ominous pall of heavy smoke. And helicopters were passing, one after another, heading toward the MGM; then they were heading toward the Civic Center where the crusade was being held. They had been lifting guests trapped on top of the MGM to the center, while school buses were collecting those who made it down the ladders or stairs. Shortly before the tragedy the city had practiced for just such a disaster. The cooperation was incredible; helicopters came from everywhere, and all the school buses arrived. Police were organized.

Bill was due at the center to make some TV spots, and when he arrived the guards at first waved the car away. Then, on recognizing him, they opened the gates and motioned him through.

Dick Furman, who, with Franklin and their wives, was attending the crusade, was one of the first doctors on the scene. He worked nonstop for hours on the victims, most of whom suffered from smoke inhalation.

The Salvation Army provided piles of clothing. McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants sent food. Every hospital was filled, and the overflow filled a large section of the huge Convention Center. All this I saw briefly in the center as we let Bill off. And I marveled at people’s unselfish cooperation in helping each victim. Everyone helped who could.

We Christians are involved in an even more urgent job of rescuing the lost: from eternal damnation. Do we put their rescue before petty religious differences? Are we willing each to do our part unselfishly, to join hands and reach out to the hurt and lost before it’s too late?

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