Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rising From the Ashes

On my recent trip to NYC, I visited St. Paul's chapel, which is across the street from the World Trade Center site. This special little church survived the devastation on September 11, 2001, with not even one broken window. This was quite remarkable given it's proximity to all that happened on that day. The courtyard of the church contains several trees and a small graveyard. Only one tree was destroyed from the firestorm of debris that engulfed the church. It was truly a miracle.

I visited the trade center site in May of 2002, just 8 months after September 11th. In fact, I assisted two friends of mine, Barry Dennis and Mat Boggs in leading a healing pilgrimage tour to NYC. We took our group in to St. Paul's chapel. I have friends who were affiliated with the Trinity Church at Wall Street. St. Paul's belongs to Trinity Wall Street. Even though St. Paul's, at that time, was only open to the crews working "the pit" to clean out the debris, we were allowed in. We heard two volunteers tell powerful and poignant stories about volunteering there through all the rescue efforts and the clean up process. The chapel provided food, massage, chiropractic adjustments, a place to rest and much needed supplies to the rescue workers and later to the clean up crews. It was quite an extraordinary event to be allowed in to this sacred space and hear from some of the people who made it all happen.

When our group was finished inside the chapel, we went out into the courtyard behind the church. It is literally right across the street from the Trade Center site. As I walked down the path through the graveyard, I looked at the old headstones on either side of me. Most of them were so worn down that you couldn't read what was carved on them. The very first tombstone that was legible as I walked down the path was for a woman who died on September 11th in about 1796. I got chills as I saw this gravestone. Somehow it felt significant to me.

As I stood there, dumbfounded over this gravestone, I gazed up into the trees and saw another site that sent chills up and down my spine. There were several bird's nests in the trees that were made largely of debris from the Trade Center! Pieces of paper, plastic... all the various pieces of rubble that had come down to cover downtown Manhattan. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I realized that even out of this terrible destruction, new life could rise again. It was strangely comforting to me that the birds were showing us that this rubble could somehow be used to build a future.

I noticed in later visits that St. Paul's has a picture of one of those bird's nests in a pictorial timeline of the events of September 11th posted at the entry of the church. I was pleased that this phenomenon had captured other people's attention, and that it has been built into the permanent memorial at the chapel.

No one wishes for tragedy and loss, but when it visits us, we can take a lesson from these birds... to use the remnants of the loss to move forward. It isn't necessarily easy, but it is possible.

This is a picture I took of one of the bird's nests at St. Paul's
Chapel in NYC, May 2002. It is a little tough to make out,
I realize, but there is a lot of Trade Center debris in
this particular nest.

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