Friday, January 16, 2009

Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero

The first time I went to Ground Zero was in January of 2003.We went in January and it was bitterly cold. There was very little to see except for the huge hole that was left.

On this trip, one thing that Tony's mom really wanted to do was to go to Ground Zero. There was not much to see as the area is under construction and the fences are covered with blue plastic. Construction of the Freedom Tower is the only thing that has really begun.
This fire house sits across from Ground Zero. On the side of the building there is a beautiful bronze mural with the words May We Never Forget.
There is a poster on the side of the firehouse with photos of all of the firefighters who died as a result of the attacks. People still leave flowers next to the poster 7 years later.We went to St. Paul's Chapel directly across from the World Trade Center site. St. Paul's Chapel was home to an extraordinary eight-month volunteer relief effort after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
The Bell of Hope, created by the renowned Whitechapel Foundry, sits in the courtyard of St. Paul's Chapel. It was presented on September 11, 2002 by the Lord Mayor of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The pedestal base of the bell was created locally out of eastern brownstone-the material used in the construction of many New York buildings. There is a brass footprint of the World Trade Centers directly below the bell inlaid on top of the pedastal. The bell is rung every September 11th and symbolizes the triumph of hope over tragedy.

This tree stump is what remains of the 100 year old sycamore tree that sat in the northwest corner of St. Pauls churchyard. On September 11th, 2001, this tree protected the chapel from tons of debris and a large steel beam from the North Tower. Not a single piece of glass in the chapel was broken when the towers collapsed.Inside the chapel, there is a new interactive exhibit,Unwavering Spirit, that honors the ministry of the relief effort and its legacy of love and compassion. We were there on a Sunday morning so we were inside the chapel during the church service.

This photo is displayed in the entrance way of the church.

During the relief efforts, volunteers lined the perimeter of the chapel with cots and exhausted recovery workers would come to sleep for a few hours before going back out to the pit. Volunteers changed the sheets and blankets daily and placed a stuffed animal on each pillow.This Flag of Honor contains the names of all those who perished in the terrorist attacks of 9.11 including the planes, the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers.
This red chasuble was donated to the Chapel by Father Mesa, a Roman Catholic priest and volunteer. The chasuble was made by his mother to be worn during his ordination. One evening during the relief effort, an anonymous volunteer pinned patches from rescue organizations around the world to the chasuble. This chasuble symbolized the solidarity between the Chapel and the workers at Ground Zero and was worn by members of the clergy for many Eucharist services in the months following the attacks.
Japanese school children sent these colorful origami peace crane chains.
This is a display of Helping Hands. Thousands of visitors took part in this holiday project creating ornaments for the "Tree of Hope" in 2003. the small hands represent the countless hands that came together at St. Paul's to pray, heal, comfort and embrace all those who walked through the doors of St. Paul's Chapel after September 11th.
In the days following the attacks, people left photographs of their loved ones and contact information taped to the fences and walls around city hospitals and rescue centers. Volunteers at St. Paul's Chapel turned a small alter at the entrance into a memorial. Posters of the missing and mass cards purchased after the attacks were displayed. This is a replica of the original alter and it now contains the mementos found outside of the church during that time. This memorial also honors all victims of war and terrorism and all who have given their lives in the line of duty.
This Oklahoma City Banner was created by Pam Meyers, and her husband Alan, an Oklahoma firefighter. They brought it to all of the fire stations and EMT units that were first to respond to the Murrah bombing, and collected signatures and messages of support from the firefighters and emergency workers.
We left St. Paul's Chapel and headed towards Battery Park. We passed Trinity Church where the sculpture below sits in the churchyard. This monumental bronze memorial scultpture was based on castings of the sycamore tree's (from St. Paul's Chapel) roots.

This sculpture stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center for 30 years. It was designed by artist, Fritz Koneig as a symbol of world peace. It was damaged in the attacks and was placed in Battery Park as a temporary memorial in March of 2002.

This eternal flame sits near the above sculpture and was ignited on September 11, 2002 in honor of all those who were lost.

Seven years later seeing all of these things brought me right back to September 11, 2001. I had two week old twins and my husband was on his way to New York City for a hearing. He was on the train when the planes hit the Twin Towers and he was lucky enough to get off the train in Newark. He headed back to Baltimore and made it as far as Philadelphia when all trains stopped running and the stations closed. He was able to walk to his Philadelphia office and get a ride to his sister's house. We didn't know anyone that was killed in these attacks but it's a day that we will never forget.

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