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Letters Home From the Front Lines of a Ministry: Part 2

Dear Friends,

It is another beautiful day. Any other year, we would be basking in these beautiful warm and sunny days. This year, we are grateful for each day that the rescue workers are not cold or wet.

People at the site talk about how Septmber 11th was an incredibly beautiful day, and it is not just idle talk about the weather. The sky was deep azure, there was a slight breeze, the air was cool and clean. The light on the water and the buildings was like artwork. The contrast of such beauty with the horror struck a deep chord in people.

Two policemen recounted how after the first plane hit, they raced across the bridge into Manhattan. Each said "it was such a beautiful day." As they spoke, I had this sense of a crime against nature.

At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the Feast of St. Francis, there was a grand procession of animals. There were the "regulars" -- a bald eagle, an owl, llamas, and a camel. There were also rescue dogs from the site. When the Bishop announced he had just received word we had started bombing, I was a few feet from the rescue dogs, thinking there there will now be ground zeroes in Afghanistan. This past Sunday, as I sat with a young woman whose brother had died at the Trade Center, I knew there was someone in Afghanistan sitting with a sister or daughter. I say this without judgment or even opinion about what we are doing. I say this with only the awareness that these circumstances give me.

On Friday I celebrated Mass at St. Paul's. The familiar service was comforting and reassuring to me. Standing behind the altar before the Eucharist, I looked up and really saw for the first time the banners, which have been hung from the second-story railings, bearing messages of hope and love and thanks from around the country. And there was such a feeling of deep connection. It is the air we breathe here. How does one describe the air we breathe? It is as if "Ground Zero" and the "Red Zone" (the area immediately surrounding Ground Zero) and the "frozen zone" (the blocks surrounding the Red Zone, which you can enter only with proper ID, this area and all who are in it are cushioned in a substance that is gentle, and absorbs that which is not gentle.

The Rev. Gwyneth MacKenzie Murphy, along with scores of other volunteers, has been serving rescue workers at ground zero at St. Paul's Chapel, across the street from the World Trade Center site. A native New Yorker, she is a priest in the Diocese of Utah. Before moving to Salt Lake, she served at St. John's in Oakland and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

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