Monument to Hope

Hope4CE is marking the 20th Anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001 with a recorded service of testimony and reflection found here. One the generous people who submitted a video testimony was Chef Rossi, who also blessed us with this article on her experiences, as well. You will also find a file of the adapted liturgy we used for this service at bottom of this article for use in your own faith communities. We hope you find this as meaningful as we did. (Feature Photo is of memorial at Ground Zero in New York)

On September 11th 2001 I was a twenty-something year old chef with a new, but growing catering company in New York City. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was radiant, the air crisp. I was looking forward to spending time on the roof deck. Then the world as we knew it ended.

I watched the towers burn from my roof. Then the impossible happened. Like a deck of thousands of silver cards, the first tower collapsed.

I’d never heard the sound I heard after the tower fell: thousands of people screaming.

The empty space in the sky became a monument to loss.

A few days later, I walked to South Street Seaport. The security guards at Seaman’s Church, knew me from my time catering there. They yelled, “We got a chef!”

Chef Rossi at Seaman’s Church, Ground Zero in 2001

“Send her to St. Paul’s!” A fireman shouted.

They handed me a yellow hard hat and paper mask and put me in the back of a pickup truck.

The truck made its way through police barricades, ruined cars and piles of debris. The air was so thick with dust, it felt as though it were snowing.  It stopped in front of an old church.

Two flustered women were flipping burgers on two small backyard barbecues. They were only too happy to step aside. I flipped burgers all day, into the night.

They said we fed a thousand first responders that day.

I came back the next day and the next and the next. I roped in my friend Brian to help.

On September 18th, Brian and I talked about how surreal it felt to spend Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at Ground Zero.

As we were talking, a man in an Army uniform with a long white beard started to recite the Rosh Hashanah prayers.

We’d made it to services after all.

The Army rabbi took out a shofar from his bag.

“Te-ki-ahhh!” said the rabbi and blew.

“She-va-riiiim!” sung the rabbi and blew three pulsating blasts.

The horn’s mournful cry rose up over the burnt wreckage of the towers, the paper and dust covered tombstones in St. Paul’s cemetery and the firefighters in the tent near The Pile.

I thought of the volunteers who took turns hiding in the wreckage so the dogs that had grown despondent from days of finding no survivors could sniff them out. Everyone cheered as each volunteer was found and the German shepherd barked in glee.

I thought of the silver-haired fireman who’d driven from Cincinnati to join the bucket brigade.

“Do you know anyone who was lost?” I asked.

“We’re all brothers today,” he responded.

I looked at the empty space in the sky.

“Monument to hope.”

Chef Rossi, writer, chef, public speaker, and blogger based in New York City.

Recorded Service Link and file of liturgy from recorded service adapted from PC(USA) worship resources for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

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