Chapel near WTC site to again act as safe haven

September 7, 2011 8:51:29 AM PDT
If the walls inside St. Paul's Chapel could speak, you might hear the deep snoring of exhausted emergency workers, the fervent prayers of heartbroken firefighters and the soothing sounds of classical musicians.

Ten years after New York's darkest day, the workers, the firefighters and the musicians will return.

Reverend Daniel Simons said the week leading up to 9/11 will feature prayer services, choir concerts and poetry readings.

"It looks like a lot of activity, but most of that activity is really making a space for people to have an experience," he said. "And we're not telling them what their experience should be. We're simply saying that whatever their experience is, is the experience that they should be having, and that that's okay and that this is a safe place to have it."

The historic Episcopal church, which sits right next to the World Trade Center site, miraculously survived the terror attacks and quickly became a real-life sanctuary that provided rest, relief and replenishment for emergency workers.

"We were all looking to hang onto something," retired FDNY Captain Mike Meagher said. "Our faith was a little shattered. But when we went back in there, and I think our faith started to, every time we went back in there you got a little better, a little stronger."

"People felt comfortable there knowing that it was strong, it survived the collapse," FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said. "And I think that gave them a feeling of comfort. And that's why we went there."

And much of that comfort came through the hands of hundreds of volunteers, from chiropractors to podiatrists to food servers. Linda Hanick was one of the many who helped restore bodies and souls.

"It changed me in that it made me very conscious of the relationships in my life and wanting to always be engaged with the people that I love," she said.

One decade later, that very same love and engagement will once again fill St. Paul's Chapel during a week of events designed to remember the loss and celebrate the response.