A distant car horn.

The rumble of the subway underground.

And the sound of a baby’s heartbeat, echoing between tall buildings on a sunny Saturday afternoon in May back in 2019.

This coming Sunday marks five years since Focus on the Family’s historic “Alive from New York” event in Manhattan’s Times Square, the city’s largest pro-life event in its history.

At one point, those were the only sounds you could hear.

It had been raining most of the night before, leading to a dank and wet morning as dozens of Focus on the Family staffers and contractors workers feverishly to transform the “Crossroads of the World” into the stage and setting of a live ultrasound broadcast scheduled for later that afternoon.

It almost didn’t happen.

When the idea was hatched earlier that year, a reaction to New York State officials literally cheering the expansion of abortion, most of those in positions of authority told us it was unlikely to happen.

Some even said it couldn’t be done.

Citing fears of violence, New York City officials were unlikely to grant a permit to a pro-life rally – even though those who champion the preborn are the ones against violence.

We were told the NYPD wouldn’t want such a mass gathering over such a hot button issue.

Owners of the Jumbotrons in Time Square were unlikely to lease us the time. We were told the image of a preborn baby is too graphic – even though lingerie ads and various other images of a far different nature are seen countless times per day.

Even if those concerns were satisfied, we were told there wouldn’t be enough time to pull all the details together.

Then there was the question of the ultrasound itself.

What were the chances that the baby in waiting would cooperate, even be visible – on a live broadcast?

But God.

Permitting for the event was finalized on Friday night, less than 24 hours before the event was scheduled to begin. The ministry’s friendship with New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan – who is friends with the New York City Police Department – resulted in a warm welcome and sign off from the Blue.

Despite being first told the time was available, Jumbotron owners did freeze us out. We were repeatedly told there wasn’t any availability. We took the matter into our own hands and rented huge screens on flatbed trucks.

Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, 36 weeks pregnant, agreed to join us. Almost on cue, little Fulton yawned on screen. When it came time to hear the heartbeat, Times Square fell silent – but for the sound of preborn life.

As the ultrasound concluded, over 20,000 people watching in Times Square cheered and over 100,000 tuned in online.

This time, New Yorkers were cheering for life, not death.

We’ll never know how many hearts and minds were changed as passersby stood and stared. But the Lord does.

I lived in the Big Apple for just over 25 years and have walked through Times Square countless times. It’s organized chaos. I have never seen anything like what happened that day.

If only for a moment, something shifted.

The chaos gave way to curiosity. Rage receded and reason ascended.

And just as we were set to begin, the sun came out – in more ways than one.

All on a glorious and miraculous New York Saturday afternoon in May.


Image credit: Paul Batura