St. Paul's Opens To Public For First Time Since 9/11
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Saint Paul's Chapel in Lower Manhattan is open to the public for the first time since September 11.
The chapel, once in the shadow of the World Trade Center, became a respite center for recovery workers after the terrorist attacks. The 265-year-old Episcopal church suffered surprisingly little damage from the collapse of the twin towers, but after eight months of offering everything from food to medical service to spiritual guidance to thousands of workers, the marble floors and the rest of the interior needed cleaning.
Now after three months of renovation, Saint Paul’s opened to the general public on Monday.
NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed this report:
There was room in the chapel, but congregant’s hearts were overflowing Monday as they participated in the first public weekday service in St. Paul's Cathedral since September 11.
“Just to sit in noon Eucharist and see the space as it returns to its place of worship is a very moving experience," said congregant Diane Reiners.
Reiners was one of the volunteers who spent eight months helping to care for those who worked across the street in the World Trade Center site. The chapel, which escaped heavy damage, was a refuge for rescue workers, offering hot meals, chiropractors, podiatrists, and most importantly, a place to sleep and to pray.
“It was really like being in a place that was a little bit of heaven next to the hell that was next door," said another congregant, Carter Booth.
For the last two months, crews have been cleaning the chapel of dust and debris and removing all of the photos and banners that were hanging. The church decided, however, to leave the scratches and scuff marks from workers' boots and belts and equipment.
"This was a living place, and these pews have heard stories that people can only imagine,” said Rev. Gayanne Silver. “The sharing of pain, of joy, and the relationships that were built in these pews are all part of those scuffs."
New Yorkers and tourists lined up Monday for a chance to see inside the chapel whose outside has become a memorial.
“It’s very, very interesting,” said tourist Nick Golden. “Just the whole emotion of the whole thing — I’m just overwhelmed by it all."
Others were reassured by the experience, looking at the church then and now as a place to heal.
“People are praying, just comforting one another, and maybe sharing past experiences about a variety of things, but most importantly, I think it just helps just being together - even if you don't say anything,” said one visitor to the church Monday.
Right now, the chapel is open most weekdays for noon services and for early services Sunday mornings.
After September 11, the hours will be expanded and St. Paul's will welcome all congregants all day every day except for Saturday.
- Rebecca Spitz
On September 10, Saint Paul’s will unveil a tribute to recovery workers and the volunteers who served them at the chapel.