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CNN Live Event/Special

Look at St. Paul's Chapel at Ground Zero

Aired September 11, 2002 - 05:33   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And this was the somber sight and sound across New York City just hours ago. Bagpipe and drum processions from each of New York's five boroughs marched towards the site of the World Trade Center, where it once stood. This procession originated in the Bronx.
And here you're looking at the predawn march from Staten Island. Many New Yorkers got up early to watch the processions and show support to the firefighters and police. Some people joined in the march. In the days following the September 11 attacks, bagpipes and drummers accompanied hundreds of funerals for firefighters and police officers who paid the ultimate price.

And we want to go live now to St. Paul's Chapel at ground zero. It became a living shrine immediately following the 9/11 attacks and it was also a refuge for recovery workers.

Our greatest is at St. Paul's this morning -- good morning.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning to you. And we do come to you from St. Paul's, which is on the northeast corner of ground zero.

This is Church Street and hours after the disaster I was in this very spot, walking down the street. The rubble was up to your chins, the smoke was billowing, the fires were burning. It was a very surreal situation. It was just unbelievable.

And what's amazing is a year later the traffic's now moving on the streets. Most of the people have come back to work in the surrounding area around the World Trade Center. But it's still surreal being here. You expect to turn around and see these huge buildings towering over the neighborhood and, of course, you don't.

There are many buildings in the area that are still shut down. For example, right here at Old Federal Building there's a post office inside there, other federal offices, shut down for a year while the cleanup continues. We don't know yet when that building will reopen. But we are on the grounds of the church. They call it Church Street because St. Paul's Chapel is on it, one of the most famous churches in America because it was but in 1766, the oldest continuously used building in New York City.

And it is a memorial now, a makeshift memorial. The fence right here where people from all over the world bring shirts and they bring flags and flowers and candles to remember the 2,801 people who died in the World Trade Center Towers. The church itself, almost no permanent damage despite the fact that it was across the street from the World Trade Center buildings. Many people consider it a miracle. Thousands of rescue and recovery workers came here for food, for medical services, for other help in the eight months following September 11.


TUCHMAN: Reverend, I remember walking here 20 hours after the terrorism attacks and seeing all the dust and thinking this church was probably very heavily damaged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it structurally was not damage. I remember myself walking past it the, early in the afternoon last September 11 and seeing it from up Fulton Street a ways and being amazed that as close to the site as it is, right across the street, that the damage to the structure, that there was none, that none of the windows were broken.

We found, in the weeks and months after that, that the real damage here was in terms of the need for cleanup, how heavily the dust, the soot, the ash, the debris that had infiltrated the building and the choir. The organ up in the choir loft...

TUCHMAN: So right up there? That organ doesn't work anymore you're saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That organ's pipes are filled with dust and ash now and with the goo from petroleum fumes and may never function again.

TUCHMAN: Let's go into one of the pews here. You see scuff marks on the benches here, right? Tell me what this is from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when we cleaned up the chapel, when we repainted, we decided to leave the pews with the marks from the boots and the heavy equipment of the fire and police personnel, the military personnel, the construction workers who slept in these pews over those eight months.

TUCHMAN: And slept with their boots on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slept with their boots on and the equipment belts around them. So we're really leaving that what we refer to as sacramental marks of their presence with us, that is to say the sort of outward and visible sign that they were here and that we ministered to them here for so long.


TUCHMAN: By the way, this church is where George Washington used to pray. He actually came to this church after his inauguration. And there is a special pew set up where he used to sit when he came to the church to pray.

Now, there will ultimately be a memorial on the World Trade Center site, but for now this fence is the memorial. They did it also in Oklahoma City following the disaster there at the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, a fence with mementos. They've built a beautiful memorial in Oklahoma City, but the fence still remains there -- back to you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Gary, I wanted to ask you about all the people already assembled at ground zero.

TUCHMAN: Carol, I'll tell you what's very interesting, people are just starting to show up here, to be here for the festivities today. But this being New York City, a lot of the people who have been around with us for a couple of hours are people who have been up all night and they're just kind of hanging out right now, to be honest with you.

But as you see, police are now arriving on the scene to participate in the activities here at ground zero one year later.

COSTELLO: Yes. You said festivities and I think we have to point out to people that this won't be all in all a sad day. We'll also be celebrating things like the American spirit and coming back and fighting back.

TUCHMAN: Well, that's right. There's certainly, obviously, a different mood here today. I mean I'm telling you, on September, the early morning hours of September 12 when I was here, you felt like the world was coming to an end. (AUDIO GAP) the players and seeing the smoke. I mean it was just the worst feeling.

And, yes, today it certainly is very sad here. But you do, as you just said, Carol, have that feeling that America has survived this, has gone to Afghanistan. And let me tell you one thing, this is a very important thing to point out, and we have pointed this out many times. But I spent a month in Afghanistan in June and it's very hard to find civilians in Afghanistan who are not grateful for what the United States has done for their country. And I think that's a lot of things, that's something a lot of Americans don't know but it's very hard to find anyone who's not grateful for what's happened there.

Sure, they feel bad and terrible about the civilians who have died, but they also are so relieved and happy, most of them, that the Taliban is out of town.


All right, Gary Tuchman, thank you very much.