9/11 And The Spikes Of Sorrow

David McMahon

Melbourne, Australia

Artist's Description

These metal spikes that adorn the perimeter fence of St Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan tell one of the more poignant stories of 9/11. (349 views on 31 August 2011.)

I had never heard of the chapel, but on our first visit to New York City in June 2010, I stood surrounded by many emotions as I read its extraordinary story in the picture boards outside its entrance.

The little 18th century chapel is Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use. Opened in 1766, it pre-dated the American Revolution. George Washington once worshipped here, and his personal pew is still on display, as are several reminders of the darkest day in New York’s history.

But there is much more – so very much more – to the story of this historic little place of worship. I’ll keep it very short, and very simple.

The church stands in the shadow of what was once the World Trade Center buildings. On that terrible day of death and destruction nine years ago, it miraculously withstood the carnage. Only an ancient sycamore tree was damaged on its grounds, and but for a layer of ash, the building itself was unscathed.

One of the most dramatic images of the spire surrounded by billowing ash was taken by James Wheeldon and can be seen at this National Geographic site where you can also read the inspiring words of the Reverend Lyndon Harris, who explained his theory of why the chapel was spared: “It was not because we were holier than anyone who died across the street; it was because we now had a big job to do.’’

The tiny chapel immediately became a staging point for rescue workers. As they changed into their heavy rescue footwear, wave upon wave of rescuers and emergency services personnel left their own everyday shoes and boots upturned on the spikes outside the historic chapel.

But the true sense of devastation emerged at the end of the day, when several pairs of boots remained on the perimeter fence, unclaimed – a symbol of the loss that touched not just New York, not just America, but the entire world as well.

I do not crop, enhance or post-edit my images in any way. Shot with a Pentax K100D, using a Sigma 18-125mm lens. F8, 1/90 sec, ISO 400, focal length 88mm.

Featured in AMERICAS: Rural, Urban, Wild And Free, September 2010.

Featured in STORY THROUGH IMAGE, September 2010.

Featured in NEW YORK CITY JOURNALISM, October 2010.

Featured in AMERICAS, RURAL, URBAN, WILD AND FREE, September 2011.

USA2010-0334

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