In Lower Manhattan, a Steepled Miracle Among the Ruins

Some call it a miracle among the ruins.

The steel towers around it buckled and crumbled, but on Sept. 12, 235-year-old St. Paul's Chapel was still standing.

"My assumption was that it was destroyed," the Rev. Lyndon Harris said. "So when I walked down Broadway the next day and I saw it for the first time, still standing, it was very emotional for me. And when I turned the key in the lock and went inside, it was so quiet."

All around St. Paul's was utter devastation. The streets in front and to the sides were littered with three inches of ash, discarded shoes and broken glass. Shattered windows and cracked doors marred the buildings on either side of it, and just south of its corner of Broadway a department store and a hotel lay in ruins.

Behind the chapel was the center of horror itself — a waffled steel facade of one of the World Trade towers.

Now, weeks after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, with its congregation scattered and its centuries-old graveyard still blanketed with ash, the chapel of Trinity Church has become a haven for Ground Zero workers, providing both spiritual solace and physical healing. The gentrified city church has suddenly found itself the only calm spot in a war zone.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said it was a miracle that the wood-and-stone building is even standing considering the destruction around it. And Harris agrees.

"St. Paul's is still standing not because we were holier than anyone across the street or anyone who died, but because we have a big job to do," Harris said.

FBI agents long ago carted away the financial reports, company memos and personal scribblings of the destroyed World Trade Center towers that completely covered the church grounds. In their place are signs offering clean cots, grief counseling and foot care and tables full of donated food, blankets and boots.

Masseuses offer their services at five cushioned tables. Podiatrists rub swollen feet. Volunteers work in 12-hour shifts doling out medicine and pasta and soup from the Waldorf Astoria and Zabar's – 2,000 meals a day.

And the clerics do their best to tend to the needs of the soul.

"There isn't anything we trained for to do this," Trinity Church's rector, the Rev. Daniel Paul Matthews, said. "I don't know who is trained to do this. There isn't any parish priest who trained to do this. This is beyond the comprehension of all of us."

The doors of the church are never closed. Inside, National Guardsmen, firefighters and police officers from as far away as Los Angeles take catnaps in the pews.

"People just like to have a place where they can be quiet, a safe place," Harris said.

Over the resting workers, where the prayer books used to be kept, are plastered children's crayon drawings with messages of sorrow, hope and gratitude.

"I am sade. I feel faere sade because the people dide in the billdin. love Mark."

"Dear police, I hope you don't get hurt finding people in the twin towers be careful. Dylan."

"You are my heroes."

"USA rocks."

And then there's the daily Mass for relief workers, whether they're Episcopalian or not.

"My first sermon I began with dust," Matthews said. "Everything's covered with dust. What are you gonna clean off and what are you gonna leave dusty in your life? I'm going to begin dusting off those things that matter, those things that are important, dusting off the ability to say 'I love you' when you haven't said it often enough."

And after the Mass, the workers can look for answers elsewhere in the chapel. On the preacher's stand just below the cross, the Bible rests open to a passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew:

"Come to me, all you that are weary, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you; and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your heart."

Fox News' Dari Alexander contributed to this report.