from Pantperthog to Knockando

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Ground Zero story

It's hard to believe it's six years since 9/11.

Earlier this year I visited Ground Zero, which has apparently gradually shrunk as parts of it are redeveloped. Opposite the site where the Twin Towers stood is St Paul's Chapel, which I think is the oldest church in New York. The chapel became an emergency room following the terrorist attacks, and then a place to eat and crash out for those working through the debris several storeys underground. In the chapel are a large number of displays about the aftermath of 9/11, photos of the church workers and volunteers who gave up their time to care for the rescue workers who still had to toil on even though there was no hope of rescuing any more survivors.

St Paul's Chapel was where George Washington worshipped on a regular basis - in fact Washington's private pew was kept as a kind of monument to the first president. But with space at a premium, the church leaders decided they'd have to use Washington's pew as if it was any other part of the church.

Because Washington suffered with foot problems in his life, they turned the pew area into a podiatry station. As you can imagine after 12 hour (or more) shifts down in the rubble, workers were footsore. Damp conditions didn't help and there were numerous bits of rubble or metal which could scratch or pierce a worker's foot.

What you need to know is that Americans are very aware of their history. It isn't as long a history as most European states, but they celebrate it with far more reverence than we do. So, converting the pew was a big deal. But they managed to turn it into a useful treatment point, which didn't preserve a historical event, but used it as an inspiration to create a further bit of history.

I'm not sure there are many churches in the world which would do that. But perhaps there should be.

And that's my Ground Zero story.

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