Peace in middle of hell

GIFT: A Bell of Hope was given by sister church St Mary-le-Bow in London.
GIFT: A Bell of Hope was given by sister church St Mary-le-Bow in London.

STRIPS of paper hang from the fences and walls of St. Paul's Chapel in downtown Manhattan. They carry poignant 9/11 messages of sympathy and encouragement to New Yorkers.

The iron fence around the chapel, like the one at Union Square farther uptown, have become spontaneous memorials.

As people visit, makeshift shrines inside and outside St. Paul's Chapel bring tears, prayers and stunned silence.

The chapel, at Broadway and Fulton Street, just across the street from Ground Zero, came to symbolise the spirit of New York after the terrible September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Centre's twin towers.

Amazingly, the chapel escaped undamaged when buildings around it came crashing down. Because it was so close to Ground Zero, St. Paul's played a vital role. It became not only the spiritual home for Ground Zero workers but also an extraordinary and unlikely round-the-clock relief centre for recovery workers.

It was a place to rest up and grab some sleep, food and encouragement. Many thousands of volunteers worked in 12-hour shifts at the chapel to provide solace, comfort and care for the 2000 Ground Zero workers each day for months.

Through St. Paul's doors came firefighters, construction workers, police officers and others for meals, beds, counselling and prayer. Medical personnel, massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists, and even musicians transformed the chapel into a place of peace, rest, and reconciliation. Medical workers even used the pew where the first American president George Washington prayed at a surgical table to patch and stitch tired and inured feet.

An officer of the New York Police Department said at the time: "St Paul's Chapel is an oasis of Heaven in the midst of Hell."

The chapel is now on a must-see list for visitors to New York. The wounds of 9/11 are never far from the surface in New York but until the official memorial is fully open and a museum is built, the chapel will remain in focus.

Opened in 1766, St. Paul's Chapel is Manhattan's oldest public building still in continuous use and the only colonial-era church remaining in the borough.

It has survived two New York disasters - first the Great Fire of 1776 and then the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. The 1776 fire destroyed more than 500 buildings in Manhattan, including the chapel's mother church, the Episcopal parish of Trinity Church.

Its remarkable survival has earned it the title of "the little chapel that stood".

Walking through the chapel after 9/11 you were likely to see any number of things hanging on the pews or sitting on the floor - firemen's coats, helmets and hard hats; bandanas, work gloves and boots - all shed by Ground Zero workers while they grabbed some food and rest. At first it was strange to see these items in a church but soon it became commonplace.

The chapel continues to witness the tragedy.

A fireman's helmet now sits in a chapel display. It bears the number 343 - the number of firemen who died on September 11, 2001.

Nearby is a table covered in photos of other people who died and used by family members to try to find their loved ones.

A firemen's protective suit, dirtied and torn, adds to the dramatic display.

A banner still hangs inside the chapel. It says: "To New York City and all the rescuers, keep your spirits up … Oklahoma loves you."

An estimated one million people visit annually to learn about the ministry that took place at the chapel. Photos, cards, drawings, banners, flags, and other items sent to encourage rescue workers or as memorials, can still be seen.

Most of the pews have now been removed to keep an open space for displays - and for worship. Walls and remaining pews are still scarred where workers, in their work gear and equipment, rested against them.

Alongside St. Paul's Chapel is a churchyard with unique gravestones and memorials, some from the Revolutionary War. A Bell of Hope, given as a gift by its sister church St. Mary-le-Bow in London in September, 2002, to commemorate 9/11 and the chapel's mission work, stands outside the chapel's main door. It is rung every year on September 11 in memory of the victims.

In a nearby street, the wire fence is plastered with cards from well-wishers around the world.

New York City has established a 9/11 Memorial Preview site in Vesey Street, across from St John's Chapel.

Until the official National September 11 Memorial & Museum is finished and opened this year, the preview site is displaying memorabilia. It is free and open daily.

Guides at the Tribute Centre are intimately connected with the events of September 11. They are survivors, family members who lost loved ones, rescue workers, civilian volunteers, police, firefighters and Lower Manhattan residents and workers. Their stories give you an unparalleled chance to connect firsthand with history.

Five galleries convey the tragedy and the passionate response from around the world.

The displays include a scale model of the twin towers.

Photos show sweeping panoramic views of the scene and a poignant film shows the heart-wrenching recovery work of the dedicated individuals who rushed to help and continued to work tirelessly for months. A collage of photos and symbolic objects, lovingly shared by families, pays tribute to the victims.

The national memorial and museum will be in the heart of the new World Trade Centre which will be the tallest building in the USA. The memorial includes two massive pools set within the original footprints of the Twin Towers with 10-metre waterfalls cascading down their sides. The names of the 3000 men, women and children killed in the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, and in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, are inscribed in bronze around the edges of the waterfalls.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  new york september 11 travel travelling

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Fancy and formal for LGBT+ youth

FORMALITY: Members of the Byron Youth Theatre and students from the Byron Youth Services with Teeya Blatt, Stephen Allkins and Lisa Apostilides.

THE inaugural LGBT+ Youth Fancy Formal is coming up.

Nursing home carer 'heard moaning' before residents died

Outside Sydney Supreme Court for the trial of accused murderer Megan Jean Haines are (from left) Shannon Parkinson (granddaughter of suspected murder victim and St Andrew's aged care centre resident Marie Darragh), Janet Parkinson (sister) and Charli Darragh (daughter).

On-duty carer first met accused murderer night before two women died

Greyhound racing ban 'question of when, not if'

NSW Premier Mike Baird (left) standing next to Deputy Premier Troy Grant, answers a question during a press conference concerning the on-off ban on greyhound racing in NSW.

Mike Baird called coward and warned greyhound industry will fall

Local Partners

Trapper recruited to capture wallaby-killing wild dog

A WILD dog believed to be responsible for killing a number of wallabies in Arakwal National Park is being targeted by a professional hunter.

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

New acts announced for Falls Byron Bay

Northeast Party House are a six piece alternative dance rock band from Melbourne.

Seven new acts have been added to the line up

Xavier Rudd, Cat Empire announce joint tour

Australian singer songwriter Xavier Rudd at Bluesfest 2015.

Two of Australia's most outstanding live acts to tour together

Selma Blair blames flight outburst on 'psychotic blackout'

Selma Blair

"I am someone who should never drink, and I rarely do"

Bob Dylan acknowledges Nobel Prize win

Bob Dylan has finally acknowledged his Nobel Prize win

WATCH: Trailer for Jackman's final Wolverine film released

First trailer for the last Wolverine film with Hugh Jackman.

Thrilling trailer promises a dark, dystopian finale for Wolverine

CCTV footage surfaces of Kim Kardashian West's robbers

The blurry footage shows three men on bikes and two on foot

Cathriona White's mother claims to have Jim Carrey's results

Jim Carrey and late ex-girlfriend Cathriona White

SHE claims Carrey exposed White to herpes, chlamydia, Hepatitis A

The Koi Boys are back with more covers and original songs

Former Voice contestants The Koi Boys have signed with Universal Music.

THE Voice favourites release their debut album today.

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track

Heavyweight enters real estate market

Des Besanko principal and director of Raine and Horne Springfield.

Major rebranding which has seen two big name brands merge

Tenants renting rooms on Airbnb breaching lease

Rental properties.

Tenants renting rooms on Airbnb is a no no

First home buyers smash avo-on-toast excuse

TOASTED: A Coast real estate identity and first home buyers say young people should not put home ownership in the "too hard” basket and eat out instead.

Determined first home buyers can get into market