The challenge for this week is to show perspective. I like this photo because it captures both proximity and distance, but also spans time from the colonial graveyard to 21st-century Manhattan outside the cemetery gates.
I took this photo on my iPhone on our first day in New York City. We were jet-lagged and it was hot (or at least, it seemed hot to people used to San Franciscan summer). My daughter dragged her feet and whined about having to visit a cemetery.
Stories always make her perk up and connect to the places we visit, so I told her briefly about the 9/11 attacks. I pointed out the skeleton of the new World Trade Center rising nearby. I told her about the planes and the firemen and the people who died. I told her about the photo I’d seen of this churchyard snowed over with debris fallen from the towers: insulation and financial papers and children’s drawings, things blown out of the offices above. I told her about the rescuers who’d slept in the church while they searched for survivors and the empty t-shirts that hung on the fence when I visited last time, eloquent memorials to the first responders who were lost when the towers fell.
St. Paul’s Churchyard stands as a symbol to me. My feelings are complicated, threaded with horror and sadness, but at the heart, I felt compassion and connection there. The graves are old. They endure. The world swirls around them, but here, in this shaded green place, a traveler found peace. May the world find peace as well.
Cemetery of the Week #75: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard
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