St. Paul's Chapel, built in 1766, stands today in a quiet green space in lower Manhattan. Trees lend their shade to the small churchyard adjacent to the church, located on the corner of Broadway and Fulton. It's the oldest church in Manhattan and the oldest public building in New York City. Originally built as a "chapel of ease" for those who didn't wish to walk to nearby Trinity Church on Wall Street, it is known today as "the little chapel that stood". In those early years, the chapel stood surrounded by nearby farmland while today, it's steps away from the heart of Wall Street and a part of bustling, busy, brawny New York City.
On September 11, 2001, when a terrorist attack took down the Twin Towers across the street and attempted to hijack Flight 93, 2,977 Americans died, St. Paul's stood. Not one pane of glass was broken. Rescue workers soon visited the church as a place to wash and rest. The church soon offered more, including food, spiritual nourishment, treatment and music for around three thousand rescuers.
George Washington stopped at the chapel to pray after his inauguration at Federal Hall in New York. The first president was a member of the church and had his own pew.
On a July day a few years ago, my daughters and I stepped from the subway and emerged near St. Paul's. We were on our way to Ground Zero. We visited the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero, a somber, sobering place, ground hallowed by the loss of lives and courageous acts. We waited in line, a long queue with a crowd almost as quiet as if we were in church.
Tomorrow marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11. The terrorist attacks on that day will never be forgotten. The unity of our nation on September 11, 2001 and in the weeks following has faded in the years since. For a short time, we were Americans united, standing tall together, honoring the flag. We forgot about being Republicans or Democrats, Conservatives or Liberals and we were one nation, under God.
In eighteen years, many things have changed in our country, some good, some bad, some interpreted by political beliefs and divisions.
I remember that September 11 when the world changed very well. At home with my almost six-month old son, my husband called me from work to ask me what had happened. I turned on the television in time to see the first Tower fall and although I watched as that moment replayed many times, I still can feel the silent shock, the horror of that moment. My daughters were in kindergarten on that day, a day that made America a little less innocent and naive. Most of us have never felt as safe as we did since that day.
We all have seen the iconic images of 9/11 but for me, St. Paul's Chapel is a symbol for our nation.
It stood, undamaged after a heinous attack. The doors opened to provide succor and sustenance and respite. The chapel predates the United States by a decade but like our nation, it still stands.
As we remember as a nation, as we reflect on the lives lost and the patriotism found in every heart that September, it's a time to remember we are, at the end of the day, all Americans.
On September 11, let's fly Old Glory with pride, let us celebrate our nation and our freedom. Let us not forget what principals this nation was founded upon and let us remember that other September 11, the one, like Pearl Harbor, will live in infamy forever.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a staff writer and writes a weekly column, A Writer's View, for The Neosho Daily News. She is also an author.