From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Presbyterian from 'Show-Me' state gets a close-up view of Ground

Date 3 Dec 2001 09:11:38 -0500

Note #6960 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Presbyterian from 'Show-Me' state gets a close-up view of Ground Zero

by Rev. Robert L. Brashear
West Park Presbyterian Church
New York City
and John D. Filiatreau

NEW YORK CITY - On a crisp Sunday morning in October, David C. Fisher, a
Missouri Presbyterian in New York City for a wedding, set out to find a
place to worship. He made his way to the church I pastor, West-Park
Presbyterian, just a few blocks from where he was staying. That was World
Communion Sunday, and Fisher, an architect, quickly came to feel that the
congregation he'd happened upon was living proof that New York is a city of
the world. He heard prayers in English and Spanish, and music from many
cultures. He saw and tasted breads from around the world. And he got an
unexpected invitation to take part in a Tuesday-evening mission trip to the
site of the World Trade Center attacks.

Fisher decided on the spot to extend his visit for a few days to take part
in the Ground Zero visit. Then he learned that the Tuesday in question was
two weeks away. He flew home on schedule, but when his plane touched down in
his hometown, Kansas City, his heart was back in New York.

During a session meeting at his home church, Pine Ridge Presbyterian, he
mentioned his trip, and said he'd like to return to join the West-Park
volunteers on their mission of mercy. Within minutes, a Pine Ridge elder, an
airline employee, had made the necessary arrangements.

So, on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 24, Fisher was back in Manhattan,
shaking hands with about a dozen other volunteers at West-Park, then
gathering up items the congregation had collected for the workers at the
disaster site - candy bars, hot-chocolate mix, socks, snacks, lip balm -
and, heavily laden, trudging to the Fulton Street subway stop.

We all made our way to historic, still-standing St. Paul Chapel, which
borders Ground Zero. It had been transformed: It was festooned with American
flags, "United We Stand" banners, and posters created by well-wishers from
around the country and around the world. Inside St. Paul's, every inch of
floor space was covered with carefully sorted items like those in the arms
of the West-Park volunteers. Milling about were massage therapists,
chiropractors, podiatrists, psychiatrists, ministers and all manner of
others, all there to offer their services to the exhausted workers who sat
quietly in the pews, eating or taking naps, or knelt in prayer in the
sanctuary's candle-lit glow.

The West-Park volunteers were soon divided into task groups. Some would be
"bouncers," checking IDs. Some would serve food. Some would keep the coffee
urns brewing. Fisher and Elder David Trainer were assigned to a truck and
dispatched to fetch food and other supplies from far-flung locations around

Wave after wave of workers shuffled through. Police officers, firefighters,
sanitation workers, demolition crews, Transit Authority police, FBI agents,
uniformed military personnel from all over the country, a Disaster Medical
Assistance Team up from Alabama. Well after midnight, when the parade of
workers slowed somewhat, Fisher persuaded a policeman to take him on a
guided tour of the smoking, fetid, 17-acre site, bathed by stadium lights
and shadowed by ruined buildings all around.

By morning, more than 800 meals - Cajun cuisine, complete with feel-good
Zydeco music, courtesy of two men who had driven non-stop from Louisiana -
had been served, and Fisher and Trainer were off to Boulez, one of the
city's fine-dining restaurants, to pick up the workers' breakfasts.

At the end of their 12-hour shift, the West-Park team dispersed and Fisher
was off to the airport for his flight home.

Since Sept. 11, West-Park, the first New York City Presbyterian congregation
to participate in this "ministry of presence" at Ground Zero, has received
hundreds of cards, letters and posters from supportive and sympathetic
people from all over the United States. But our grieving congregation was
especially heartened to have the direct involvement, through Fisher's own
special ministry of presence, of a Presbyterian church halfway across the

His participation is evidence of the connection among Presbyterians that is
more substantial and more powerful than any of the divisions that so perplex
us these days.
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