Wednesday, June 25, 2014

st. paul's chapel

When Terzo and I came up out of the World Trade Center PATH station yesterday and crossed the street, we found ourselves face to face with St. Paul's Chapel.

I have heard so much about this chapel and its role in the 9/11 events. I don't know if this is because I am an Episcopalian (this chapel is affiliated with that denomination) or if it has the same significance for everyone? It holds mythological status in my mind: a place that was right next to all the destruction and yet somehow escaped harm, that was instrumental in the relief and recovery efforts in the hours and days and weeks and months following those awful events.

I did know that it demanded a few minutes of exploration, though I was under-prepared for my emotional response. This site tended to the rescue and recovery workers, around the clock, for eight months, providing a place of rest, meals, and physical and emotional ministrations. The heartbreak is still present and palpable. From the altar memorial filled with those photos that were so prevalent around the city in the hours and days after the attacks...

To the chasuble covered with patches donated from fire companies and police stations around the world...

To the cross made from remnants of the towers...

To the one remaining worn and scratched pew (the rest have been removed), a lasting testament to the hours spent in the chapel, tossing and turning by rescue personnel wearing their equipment, snatching a few hours of rest before they headed out to search again.

(No picture of this one. My heart was too heavy at this point.)

The lump in my throat was so large that I couldn't trust myself to speak. I certainly could not write in the journal provided for everyone to share their responses. I knew I would break down, and I didn't want to upset Terzo, who didn't really understand or appreciate (through no fault of his own) the weight of these memories.

To end on a higher note—literally—as we were walking back to the PATH station later that afternoon, Terzo glanced up and gasped. "Look! Only the lines tell you the difference between the clouds and that building!"

It is 4 World Trade Center, one of the first buildings to be finished in the new complex. A fitting juxtaposition between old and new, between endings and beginnings, between heartbreak and hope.


  1. oh, i love st. paul's! it was one of the very first places i visited after moving to college. the scratched pew is incredibly moving. also, george washington went to church there when he was in NYC. are there still ribbons on the fence?

  2. Oh my! I have not been there in so many years. I think I was in high school the last time I visited (and unfortunately, that's a VERY long time!). Thanks so much for the photos. Very moving.