Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Visiting Ground Zero

It seems like a trip to New York requires a trip to the World Trade Center site. To pay respects. To try to more fully grasp what happened. To put my mind around it a little better -- if that's possible.

Truthfully, this isn't my first trip to New York since Sept. 11, 2001, but it's the first trip where I had any interest in going to Ground Zero. It was too easy to close my eyes and remember that day and the images I saw on television. I didn't feel a need to go until now.

Unexpectedly, I wasn't nearly as moved as I thought I'd be looking at where the Twin Towers used to be. It simply seemed like a big construction site. There was not much there that was helping me connect what I was seeing with what I was remembering.

That moment didn't come until we walked across the street to St. Paul's Chapel. I remembered hearing and reading about the chapel when Sept. 11 was happening. This historic little chapel where George Washington worshipped was feared lost for a brief period when the towers fell, but it miraculously survived intact.

According to a Sept. 3o, 2001, New York Times article Near Ground Zero, Unbowed Spires:
''When the towers fell, more than a dozen modern buildings were destroyed and damaged,'' Mayor Giuliani said at the prayer service in Yankee Stadium last Sunday. ''Yet somehow, amid all the destruction and devastation, St. Paul's Chapel still stands -- without so much as a broken window.

''It's a small miracle in some ways,'' he said, ''but the presence of that chapel standing defiant and serene amid the ruins of war sends an eloquent message about the strength and resilience of the people of New York City, and the people of America.''

The chapel quickly became a supply depot and a sanctuary for the rescue workers; a place to pause, to pray and, perhaps most preciously, to sleep.

It wasn't until I was in the chapel yard, then inside the chapel that I felt any human connection with that construction site across the street.

I know that when the new building goes up at Ground Zero there will be a museum and memorial to the victims of Sept. 11, but until then I recommend making the effort to walk across the street and visit the chapel.

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