Sunday, September 11, 2011

St Paul's Chapel, New York City; Remembering September 11

The very first place we went after getting off the ferry on our first day in New York City was St Paul's Chapel.

St Paul's is actually directly across the street from where the World Trade Centre used to be. On that September day in 2001, ten years ago today, this little church remained undamaged, despite the destruction that occurred just metres away.


Though the back of this church was directly across the road from where the twin towers collapsed, it stood tall and defiant on that day, it's spire standing out in the dust, smoke and debris.  

 St Paul's chapel became a beacon of hope, a place of respite, and a space to mourn for thousands.

"God's Love was triumphant over hate"

We each have memories of that day in September 2001, where we were, what we were doing when we first saw the television footage (or for some, standing, right there, helpless to do anything) of the first tower, smoke billowing out. And then watched, horrified and disbelieving, as the second plane flew into the other tower. In that moment, realising that the world as we knew it was changed forever.

And while the western world raged, disgusted that a group of people could feel such hatred for another as to very deliberately and accurately cause so much destruction, pain and heartache, we also came together in a way the likes of which is rarely seen.

As the world grieved with New Yorkers and Americans, we also banded together in a mass outpouring of fellowship. Rescue teams from around the world converged on New York to lend a hand. People traveled from far and wide to volunteer their time and their shoulders at St Paul's Chapel. Gifts and notes of sympathy flooded into New York and into St Paul's.

I have never been anywhere more moving than that church. Grief is still palpable in that place, and more than once I had to wipe away silent tears that poured down my cheeks.

Yet that church also holds hope and a lesson that we would be well advised to heed. What was offered at St Paul's Chapel was a ministry that took every aspect of the person into consideration.

There are still scars in New York, that will perhaps never heal. Maybe they shouldn't. Maybe we need a visible reminder that when disaster strikes, that is when the true heart of God is revealed, in the small things. The sandwich given to the rescue worker, the hand on a grieving mothers shoulder as she wept at the alter, a place to sleep when rescue workers were on the verge of collapse, hope that the photo someone placed on the wall might help find the missing loved one.

The heart of God is that we love like this every day of the week. That we would pour out his love on those in need no matter how they came to be in need.

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