London, Nov.11 : The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has admitted that God was "pretty useless" during the 9/11 terror attacks.
According to a new book, Archbishop Williams, who was just streets away from the World Trade Center when it was destroyed by Islamic terrorists in hijacked passenger planes, is said to have told an airline pilot in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity that God had not prevented it because he has given humans free will.
The Archbishop and his companions feared they would suffocate in a smoke-filled room as the Twin Towers collapsed, it is claimed, with one of his friends putting a hand on his shoulder and declaring: "I can't think of anyone I'd rather die with."
The dramatic account of Dr Williams' ordeal in New York on September 11, 2001, is included in a new biography, which also discloses that he remains "haunted" by the suicide of a fellow student at Oxford who was besotted with him.
Dr Williams, now the head of the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, was the Archbishop of Wales when al-Qa'eda launched its audacious attack on the US mainland, and had been due to address a meeting of religious leaders at an educational foundation just off Wall Street.
He and his companions realized they were in a "war zone" after the second tower was struck, according to the book, but Dr Williams is said to have reassured them with a prayer.
Eventually police officers broke down a back door to the building and helped the Archbishop and his group escape, and they stumbled down the streets as the second tower came down, with Dr Williams putting his arm around a colleague.
The following day Dr Williams delivered a sermon at Manhattan's Cathedral of St John the Divine, bringing tears to the eyes of the congregation after recalling a chance encounter he had with an airline pilot on the street early that morning.
According to Rupert Shortt's new biography, the pilot asked him: "Where the hell was God?"
The book states: "Rowan's answer was that God is useless at times like this.