[Episcopal News Service]
On a pastoral visit to what has been dubbed 'ground zero' by dazed New Yorkers, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, his wife Phoebe, and members of his staff, escorted by police, walked the ruined site of the World Trade Center and its environs on Friday.
'I saw utter devastation, preceded by blocks of silent, abandoned buildings and shops, and each checkpoint led us deeper into 'ground zero,' ' said Griswold. 'For me, the most affecting moment was passing in front of St. Paul's Chapel [across the street from the World Trade Center] and noticing a thick layer of debris and dust on the front steps, a half-open gate, and the open door to the church.
The churchyard was thick with dust, refuse and thousands of pieces of paper, he reported. The trees surrounding the church had bits of paper and plastic stuck in them. The Episcopal Church and US flags were in tatters but still flying, both at half mast.
In the immediate area of the collapsed buildings, smoke from contained but still burning fires drifted across the scene. The only people in sight were police and volunteer rescue workers. The Griswolds joined in assisting workers distributing food to rescue personnel and police.
'My overwhelming impression was of incredible evil, counterbalanced by incredible generosity,' said Griswold, 'And the spirit of being one.' Workers at the site seem 'grateful that those of us who are signs and symbols of the church and its care are present.'
When the group left, Griswold returned to St. Paul's, climbing over the rubble to enter the silent and empty church. He noted no damage to the building, although its windows were covered in dust and debris and could not be seen through.
Seeing the sacristy door open, Griswold went in to write a note: 'I've been here. You have my prayers and my love. Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop.' Then he looked up to see that a priest had appeared--the Rev. Lyndon Harris, associate responsible for ministry at St. Paul's. Griswold noted that the church had sustained no damage. 'We're keeping the church open,' Harris replied. 'But we would gladly give up St. Paul's to have saved just one life across the street.'
'Over the past few days, many of us have been asking, 'where should I be?' ' Griswold commented. 'It felt right to be there at the heart of it all.'