Hole in the Skyline

In my neighborhood, you can get pizza equal to what we found in Little Italy. Joe’s Pizza serves the best NY style pizza available to those who live slightly north of Dallas—probably because Joe is authentic NYC Italian. His restaurant—in addition to photos of his sons and nephews in uniform—has the NY skyline painted on the wall. The thing is that Joe’s was there long before 2001 and on his wall, the twin towers still stand. Joe has a red white and blue ribbon pinned on each to acknowledge the tragedy.

Today I saw the hole in the skyline for real. The place where the two largest buildings in Manhattan once stood is now a large pit filled with cranes and workmen. Though there is a sign enumerating the names of all who died there, it is still a construction site—not yet a memorial.

Across the street is St. Paul’s Chapel. And, aside from an ancient sycamore that was felled by a hurling piece of steel debris the church is largely undamaged. The stone building—which hosted George Washington’s inauguration—housed and fed rescue workers during those dark days in September 2001.

While I walked around Ground Zero in relative calm, the site of the pews in St. Paul’s Chapel scarred from where rescue workers had slept in full gear made me cry. For someone who believes in God, it was an odd paradox. On one side of the street in a pit filled with the activity of reconstruction was the site of one of the most hideous acts ever committed in the name of God. On the other side of the street under the shade of quiet trees and a tall steeple was the home of hundreds of volunteers who made soup, created space to sleep and delivered kind words and smiles to those who spent their daylight hours in the hell of digging through debris for survivors. These acts also done in the name of God.

It occurs to me that there is an important role for churches to play in a world where evil often delivers fatal blows. St. Paul’s Chapel is dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the financial district, yet in the first dark days, the money of all the banks in the world couldn’t make a difference. It was the hands and hearts of people committed to delivering kindness in simple and small ways that made things better.

The church is filled with little bits of memorabilia sent from people across the country. Fire and police insignias, teddy bears, origami cranes… At the back of the church is a huge sign from people in Oklahoma. A t-shirt from an elementary school in Alaska is pinned to a cork board. Bits of paper and cloth from every state and many other countries let NY know they weren’t mourning alone.

As I walked through St. Paul’s Chapel with tears streaming down my face, there were people of all races and many accents also viewing the place with blurred vision.

NY still doesn’t mourn alone.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall