The hours that followed the early-morning catastrophe in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington DC, were numbing and surreal. There was no way to absorb what had happened and the impact it would have on the people, both at the sites of the air crashes and with their families and friends. As we slowly absorbed the act of terrorism, we watched our city respond beyond anyone's expectations.

At any given time there can be 50,000 people in the twin towers that collapsed shortly after the planes crashed.

Manhattan truly became an isolated island as every entrance to the area was closed. People walked the bridges to get home, sometimes walking for hours.

Rescue people cause from all over and the scene slowly unfolded with the hard facts. Sixty-two nations lost people in this attack. The air was filled with thick, acrid smoke and white ash, with much fear and anxiety sensed by all. Stories of great heroism filled the media and the strength of the rescuers continues without hesitation. At our center, some of the nurses volunteered at the site. There was an outdoor operating room set up for 2500 of the "walking wounded" and a ferry boat used as a large ambulance to take people across the river to other hospitals. As the days have passed, people are searching for ways to assist and help others. The churches are filled for services and strangers are talking to strangers the way neighbors do. We have been able to set up counseling services for both the staff and our neighbors, and we have shared in interfaith activities.

Along with smaller prayer services at our center, we planned with the families a prayer vigil that would take us to the police and fire departments in the neighborhood, where both groups suffered loss of life. The word spread quickly and over 300 people joined us. The Flower Growers of Mexico and South America asked if they share this effort with us and provided beautiful flowers in memory of their loved ones lost.

We began with a gathering in the nearby church, then walked through East Harlem to the police station. It is blockaded within two blocks to prevent anyone entering for security reasons, but when they maw us, they opened the way. The police joined us in prayer, we erected a small shrine and left our flowers, and then they provided us with a police escort to the fire department. The crowd was so big they feared for our safety walking along busy avenues at evening traffic time. Again we were warmly received by these public service people, who were moved to tears at our expression of gratitude for their lives, so willing to help others.

The New York City fire department lost 337 men in the rescue when the buildings came down, and the police nearly 40 We ended our service in another nearby parish church where the children expressed what had happened and what they hope for.

Now we begin the huge task of peace-building. Our deepest prayer is that there will be world wisdom to seek justice without any danger to the innocent and countries as a whole. We also have been humbled by this experience which has brought us to our knees, and as we rise, we pray that together we can understand and recognize how we all participate in those acts which foster the possibility of terrorism to become a reality. Only then will we be able to seek to live peaceful and just lives. This hope has surfaced over and over as we listen and speak to our families, friends and neighbors.
We have been overwhelmed by the response from so many LSA communities from many countries. We are grateful for your thoughts, concern and prayers, and we join you in great hope that we will all live in the peace of God in this wonderful creation we treasure more each day

Susanne Lachapelle

from the Pain de Chez Nous
no. 10
18 October 2001

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