This Sunday marks four years since the deadly and destructive September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. The physical recovery is over, yet the pit where the World Trade Center once stood has become a pilgrimage for many who visit the area nearly every day.
Dr. Courtney Cowart, an adjunct professor at General Theological Seminary, recognized a need to provide a spiritual reference to this powerful moment in American history that would help people cope with 9/11 and its aftermath. Funding from the Templeton Foundation enabled her to produce a 72-minute compact disc called, " A Pilgrim's Walking Tour of Ground Zero: Stories from the 9/11 Recovery Community."
She said she pursued the project because she believes that "for the larger society its message is inspirational, and for visitors to the site it serves a pressing unmet need."
On the day of the attacks Cowart was working in the offices of Trinity Church and became one of thousands of people evacuated from the area. She returned four days later and helped establish the volunteer effort at St. Paul's Chapel that supported recovery workers.
The CD, narrated by Cowart, consists of music, poetry, interviews and stories from other volunteers, recovery workers, and families who lost loved ones. It comes with a map and instructions for a seven-stop, mile-long tour starting at St. Paul's.
Contributors to the CD include Tony Palmeri and Joe Bassetti, two members of New York's Department of Sanitation; Brother Douglas Brown of the Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery; and Sister Grace of the Episcopal Society of St. Margaret, who served nine months as coordinator for recovery workers at St. Paul's, and tells how she found consolation the following spring in a bird's nest containing debris from the disaster.
"A Pilgrim's Walking Tour of Ground Zero" also includes the stories of Joe Bradley, a crane operator, who helped dismantle the wreckage, and Ulla Suokko, a world renowned flutist who played daily at St. Paul's while workers took time to eat and rest. The Rev. Lyndon Harris, at the time the chapel's vicar, also describes his experience of the recovery effort.
The CD's cover features the now-famous "Courage" banner designed by Jessica Stammen, a former student at New York's Cooper Union School of Art and a member of St. Paul's Chapel.
"The goal of all of this is to make some kind of spiritual sense of where God was to be found in so much suffering and death," Cowart said in a press release. As Brother Douglas says on the CD, "This is about love that is stronger than death, love that reached down into the grave and didn't let go."
Acclaimed songwriter and singer Beth Nielsen Chapman contributed two of her songs for the production, and Emmy award-winning musician, composer and producer Gary Malkin his own ethereal music.
The CD was produced by the Episcopal Media Center and retails for $15. It is available online at www.episcopalmedia.org or by phoning 1-800-229-3788.
A special companion website for the CD was produced at: http://www.courage911.com.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit New York Disaster Interfaith Services.
"It does take you back to the pain of that day, but it also helps you understand the courage, compassion and community that were demonstrated for the nine months that followed," said the Rev. Canon Louis C. Schueddig, the CD's producer and executive director of the Episcopal Media Center. "It takes you from the horrible Good Friday experience of 9/11 to many of the amazing Easter stories of the recovery mission."