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'Telescopic Booms on Jeeps --' Or, How to Clean A Church

Steeplejacks have been dancing on ropes hanging from Trinity's spire and jeeps mounted with telescopic booms have been pulled into the aisles as a comprehensive cleanup of the church gets under way.

On September 11, a thick layer of dust and debris from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers settled on Trinity's sandstone skin and swirled through windows and ventilation shafts into the nave.

Pews and floors were cleaned in the normal way for the reopening of the church on November 4. Now a major operation has had to be mounted to clean the farthest reaches of the structure.

Wall Street onlookers have been fascinated in recent days by the cleaning of the spire, which rises more than 220 feet into the sky. But apart from the steeplejacks' brand of industrious circus, other work has been going on out of sight of parishioners and visitors.

Inside the church, Ray Tiedemann of John Tiedemann, Inc., presides over a high-altitude scrubbing exercise. After hours, jeeps mounted with hydraulic extensions capable of reaching the tallest part of the nave, are wheeled between the pews. At the end of each extension is a bucket, into which climbs a brave cleaner with a chemically-treated sponge in hand.

Afterwards, the jeeps and their extension arms are dismantled and put in pieces at the back of the church, barely noticed, if at all. More than 300 sponges have been used in the cleanup so far. Every inch of the church's interior will be scrubbed, sometimes twice or more, before the church is deemed clean. It is estimated that more than 2,000 total hours will be needed to finish the job.

While the work continues, the everyday cleaning at ground level has to be intensified, reports David Jette, head verger. All Saints' Chapel, for instance, is dusted before weekday morning services to remove the residue left by a combination of cleaning in the highest parts of the nave and activity at "Ground Zero".

Parishioners have been grateful for the incense used at worship services, reports Jette. When the wind blows from the north, the smell from Ground Zero is "complex in a nasty way -- menacing," he says.

Another task remains, however. The church's organs have been cleaned on the outside, but experts will need to be brought in to clean the interiors properly.

In the midst of the cleanup, visitors are arriving in record numbers. One Saturday, more than 2,500 walked through Trinity's bronze doors.

"They are after a connection to what faith is," says Jette.

Posted November 21, 2001

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