Work boots mingle with Easter finery at service at ground zeror

Monday, April 1, 2002

NEW YORK -- As worshippers sang hymns early Sunday in historic St. Paul's Chapel, workers in boots dusty from the devastation of the World Trade Center trudged in for hot drinks and then back out to the job a block away.

"The message of Easter is a message of hope, and hope is something to which we cling amid the devastation of ground zero," said the Rev. Lyndon Harris, who delivered the Easter sermon at the 235-year-old Episcopal chapel.

The chapel survived the Sept. 11 terrorist attack with only a few broken windows, and became a sanctuary for workers toiling around the clock at the disaster site, offering them hot meals and a place to rest during long shifts.

On Sunday, the work removing debris and human remains from the disaster site continued as parishioners in Easter finery filled the chapel's pews. Police officers, firefighters and workers trickled through the doors and made their way to a table where volunteers poured hot drinks. Some stood listening to the hymns and prayers.

Louis Dini, who operates heavy equipment for 12-hour shifts at the trade center site, paused at the chapel before beginning work at 7 a.m.

"It was good to be here," said Dini, who said he stops there every day to "relax and just forget about everything."

The chapel's role as a relief center was supposed to end on Easter Sunday, but at the request of the city, church officials now plan to keep it open until June, when the recovery operation is expected to end.

Inside and out, thousands of colorful posters, children's drawings and banners from well-wishers adorn the chapel, and yards of multicolored paper chains and origami cranes hang from the ceilings to brighten the mood for rescue workers. Bins hold socks and gloves, lip balm and cough drops for workers, and cases of soda are stacked against the walls.

Music drifted out the doors on Sunday and through the small churchyard, which had been showered with debris during the attacks.

Joseph Guagliardo, a retired New York police officer, brought his 5-month-old twins, Isabella Rose and Emma Elizabeth, to St. Paul's to be baptized on Sunday.

"It's a joy, not only to bring them into the family, but to do it under such adverse conditions," Guagliardo said. "It's a feeling of resurrection."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: