Today is the 9th anniversary of 9/11, and today I have a much more personal connection with that day than ever…
Just 3 weeks ago my family and I were in New York, and we took the time to go to St. Paul’s Chapel where, through the course of the 9/11 tragedy, it served as a refuge for the workers, the volunteers, the family of those lost or missing.
Today it remains as it was then, a place of worship, but since 9/11, new threads and fibres have been added to its tapestry. Stories of the people and events emerging from that time are captured in the “Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero” exhibit you will find inside St. Paul’s Chapel. But it has more to do with the ‘feeling’ that is present, which words can’t begin to describe and images can only barely translate, that truly captures the spirit that lies within the story.
Taken outside of St. Paul’s Chapel, this shot captures visitors reading the timeline of the Chapel’s history up to 9/11 and in the months following. As we moved through the timeline the ‘feeling’ was an introduction to the story about to unfold inside.
Upon entering you are greeted by the banner below.
The banner is signed with many, many words of encouragement and hope. On each far side of the banner are more beautifully constructed messages…
THE PEWS sign below is attached to one of the pews and it describes the purpose the pews served throughout the 9/11 relief ministry.
THROUGHOUT THE 9/11 RELIEF MINISTRY, the Chapel’s pews became a refuge for Firefighters, Police Officers and rescue workers. Some came to sit quietly alone; others came to pray. Many came to sleep, stretching out with a blanket, pillow and teddy bear provided by volunteers. Letters from children covered each pew, offering an uplifting message of hope.
Always ready to be called back to “the pit” at any moment, workers kept their boots and equipment belts on, creating deep scuff marks in the pews. When the Chapel was cleaned and refurbished in 2002, it was decided not to repair the pews, but to leave the marks as a witness and a tribute to the workers.
Today, St. Paul’s Chapel continues to honour the first responders of 9/11 by participating in the 9/11 Neediest Medical Campaign.
Though the photo of the fireman’s jacket in the pew is a little blurred, if you look closely you will see some scuff marks left behind as described above; another sign mentions that it was a common sight to see firemen’s jackets hung over the pews.
This exhibit is called “Healing Hearts and Minds”. It is a policeman’s uniform covered with patches received from fellow officers, firefighters and others from all over the Country conveying a message of strength and solidarity.
Helping Hands for the Tree of Hope… In this image of ‘helping hands’ the blue sign explains this exhibit.
In the Winter of 2003, thousands of our visitors took part in a holiday project to create ornaments for our Tree of Hope. The little hand-shaped cut-outs represented the countless hands that came together at St. Paul’s to pray, heal, comfort and embrace all those who walked through our doors after September 11th.
This next image is a fabric art piece. I think it is truly symbolic of the 9/11 tapestry that has been woven so tightly.
I find this piece haunting and a stunning work of art.
The images I have shared are just a snap-shot of what you will find at St. Paul’s Chapel. You truly have to experience this for yourself in order to feel the story that unfolds; words simply can’t describe it. With each exhibit there is a sense of strength, a feeling of hope that is bound by unity and bonded by commitment.
The conclusion is yet to unfold… but new beginnings are taking shape. With the construction of a new tower underway at Ground Zero, fresh meaning is brought to the words above the entrance of St. Paul’s Chapel, ‘Out of the Dust’.
And the memorial that is St. Paul’s in Manhattan is powerful in the story it tells. While there is no sense of deliberate “design” in the traditional sense, the company behind “Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero”, ESI Designs, has done a remarkable job. All one experiences are the displays of loving memorabilia in the most direct way, yet the whole exhibit was in fact carefully designed to tell the story without intruding. The exhibits at St. Paul’s Chapel are not only a testimony to those lost that day, and to those who made such a huge difference in the days and months following the attacks of 9/11…
They are also a testimony to united strength, the will for rebirth, and the determination to move forward.