At the heart of New York, right across from where the World Trade Towers used to stand is a church that has become so much more than just another city centre place of worship. St Paul’s Chapel is an Episcopal church that was home to an extraordinary eight-month volunteer relief effort after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
Inside the chapel is a display of letters, gifts and photographs that bring back the human horror of that day.
It was really moving to see the scuffed backs of the pews – marked by the boots of rescuers who came there to get some sleep – and to see the collection of badges from police and fire team departments around the world. I looked down and there was a badge from the Gwent Constabulary – my home county.
I had never seen the Twin Towers when they were standing, so Ground Zero was difficult to appreciate. St Paul’s was very different.
In the middle of almost unimagineable destruction stands a holy place which was untouched by the attacks and where people still come to pause and reflect.
What’s the message from St Paul’s? Is it about the undying human spirit? Is it about bravery in the face of hatred? Is it about reconciliation? It’s all of those, I guess. But sitting quietly in the pews and just wondering … there was the sense of God lying in the rubble with a broken humanity and waiting to be found.