The Revolution Today: September 11th’s Sanctuary
How does providence work today? He still moves in mysterious, even revolutionary ways.
“My first return to St. Paul’s Chapel was the day after [September 11, 2001],” Rector Lyndon Harris explained. He put on his boots and hiked down Broadway, “hoping that I could get in, hoping that the building is still standing.”
Harris had no idea what he would find. The oldest church in continuous operation on Manhattan, St. Paul’s, had been located on Church Street for more than two centuries. But because it faced the World Trade Center, Harris knew its survival was unlikely. When terrorists flew jetliners into the World Trade Center on September 11th, the towers collapsed, raining debris and dust everywhere, especially on adjacent properties. Other nearby buildings were destroyed.
“Every step of the way my heartbeat was just pounding because I fully expected everything to be demolished. When I got here, it was a very emotional moment to see this church standing, very powerful,” Harris said.
The rector wasn’t the only one who found the church’s survival a miracle. “I was looking around, I had to go to the bathroom,” related Tim O’Neill of the New York Police Department. He had been working on the recovery at the World Trade Center site. “And I saw footprints going into St. Paul’s front door,” he said of his decision to enter the chapel. O’Neill felt an eerie silence as he looked around. “Look at that, not even a window is broken in here, I can’t believe that. It’s right behind a grave yard, but it’s intact,” he said in awe.
The rubble was less than thirty feet away, yet the church looked as pristine inside as it had the previous Sunday. No broken windows, no debris. O’Neill described the scene as unbelievable. “It added a little spirituality, and a little reminder, to me at least anyway, that it [St. Paul’s] was protected. It was immediately designated a sanctuary by a higher power,” O’Neill said.
St. Paul’s miracle has its critics. A physicist, who had developed theories about how the tower’s fall created air pockets of protection in random places, shrugged off a miraculous intervention for the church. September 11, 2001, however, was not the first time the Creator of physics had turned St. Paul’s into a sanctuary of miracles.
When fire broke out after the American army evacuated New York in 1776, local residents created a bucket brigade to transport river water and put out the fire in an effort to save St. Paul’s. Every other building in the Wall Street district was left in ruins except for this brownstone chapel. The church was only ten years old at the time. God has used St. Paul’s to stand the test of time as a testimony to his miraculous power.
He still moves and provides sanctuaries.