I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already. I’m sure everyone who’s old enough to remember that day, still knows exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news broke. I don’t remember much about my own activities during other catastrophic events throughout the world. But this one I do. That’s how you know how significant something truly is. When even 15 years later, you can still remember it all like it was yesterday.
Coincidentally, I ended up living in Manhattan for a short while in 2007. You could tell that even six years later, it was still very present in everyone’s mind. I subrented an apartment in the upper East side, right near Lexington Avenue. The apartment was being leased by an eccentric Jewish woman, who somehow decided to trust me with her entire furnished pad, including her little dog, which I agreed to take care of during her short-term move to Israel for half a year. It was a good deal for us both. I got a great discount on the rent of a fully furnished place, and in exchange, she had someone to house- and dog-sit; which was no trouble at all for me, since I had my own dog to walk anyway. One day, I came back from walking Jack and Zuki, and started talking to the doorman at the entry of the apartment building. We somehow got to the topic of 9/11. He told me that the apartment right above mine belonged to a man at the time, who worked in the North tower. He didn’t come home that day. They lost several residents in that apartment building. You could tell he still had a hard time processing it all. As I laid in bed that night, I remember staring at the ceiling, thinking about the apartment right above me. That man I didn’t know and never will. How empty and eerie his apartment must have been the night after the attack. I imagined the phone ringing in the dark, from friends and family trying to reach him, still hoping for an answer at that point.
I decided to plan a break in my scheduled tasks the next day, and visit ground zero.
I had never been to the lower part of Manhattan before. So I tried to guess my way around a bit, not knowing exactly which corners to turn. But all of a sudden, you could feel it. I hadn’t even turned the last corner yet, I couldn’t see how close I was. But I could feel it. There was a very particular vibe lingering. And as I turned the last street corner, there it was … like a painful open wound.
Strangely, I remember a friend of mine mentioning that same heavy vibe he felt when he visited it 5 years later or so. It was still a massive construction site when I saw it, all still down to ground level. You couldn’t make out any old structural outline, nor see any new foundation of what was to come. As I walked around the whole place, I noticed this little church across the street and decided to check it out. It turns out it was a key place during that day, as well as the following months. Something they never talk about here on European TV.
Saint Paul’s Chapel, also known as “the little chapel that stood” is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. This is actually the back of it. The chapel served as a place of rest and refuge for recovery workers at the WTC site. For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12-hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police and others.
The church survived without even a broken window.
Church history declares it was spared by a miracle sycamore on the northwest corner of the property that was hit by debris. The tree’s root has been preserved in a bronze memorial by sculptor Steve Tobin.
More about Saint Paul’s Chapel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Paul%27s_Chapel