Our Bells Ring at St. Paul’s Chapel, Ground Zero

Sixteen teens and adults packed into three vans, left St John’s May 20th. Our equipment and uniforms left a day earlier in a fourth van. Over 5 days and 4 nights, we have many stories – photos at the border, a “lost” credit card, misread maps, 91F weather, high humidity, 5 minute shopping trips, hunt for the cheapest t-shirt and playing a $96,000 piano. Even with all of those, I think I’m safe in saying that the most important stories come from playing at St Paul’s Chapel, Ground Zero.

September 11th, 2001 will be a day that many of us will never forget. Hundreds of people, both civilians and emergency personnel lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Centre buildings. In what can only be described as a miracle, St Paul’s Chapel was not affected by the collapse – not one single window was broken. It’s amazing because the Chapel is directly across the street from the WTC site.

Playing at St Paul’s was our offering to the residents of New York and the United States as a remembrance not only of the lives that were lost but the lives that continue to be affected today. Music was our way of expressing what words cannot.

The Chapel continues to display the many tributes and messages of love, hope and peace from around the world. Personally, 2 tributes touched me deeply. The first is a collection of origami peace cranes from the families of the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands of these cranes have been lovingly draped along a section of a fence that has been moved into the Chapel. The second is a chasuble adorned with hundreds of crests from Fire, Police and Emergency Service departments from all over the world. We were fortunate to add a crest from the Toronto Fire Services.

Although the site has been cleaned up and the city is now preparing for the next stage in it’s healing, the stories of loss and tragedy will stay forever in the minds and hearts of the residents of New York City. I have heard stories of tourists going to New York and finding its residents cold, uncaring and rude. If that’s true, we certainly didn’t meet any of them. Everyone we met was helpful and kind. When they found out we were in New York to play at the Chapel, they were all very grateful. It was a privilege to present our musical offering in memory of those who did not come home September 11, 2001.

Tina Iida

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