For several weeks we worked around the clock to make St. Paul's the 24-hour sanctuary for the workers it became. We worked with every kind of person who was there either helping at the site or tryng to rebuild the infrastructure of downtown Manhattan. My favorite trucker was Fred Luther, who arrived the first time from North Carolina on September 23, bringing 800 boots obtained by a woman named Ann Gates who lives in Clyde, NC, from a company called Wellco. These were desperately needed because the rubble was still almost 2000 degrees and burned the soles right off the workers' feet.
Fred arrived in the early hours of the morning. He pulled up in a big van with a banner that read "Boots from Asheville, North Carolina." We drove down by the green supply tent on the side of the chapel on Fulton Street near Church and unloaded while the police went down to the site to let the workers know the boots had arrived.
When they sent the word around, all the cranes and jackhammers, all the equipment in the site stopped, and all of a sudden it was utterly quiet. Hundreds of rescue workers started streaming up out of the rubble in the dark of night, giant floodlights shining down on them and illuminating all the clouds of smoke still rising from the mountains of ash and steel. Hundreds lined up as Fred and the other driver started handing the boots out. As each worker approached and was given their gear, they stopped, removed their hats, and saluted the trucker from North Carolina.
Fred had a letter from a seven year old girl from Asheville who asked that he give it to a fireman. They had two little disposable cameras, and asked the workers if one would pose for a photo with the letter to take back to this little girl. The firemen said sure, but not there. Then they took Fred down to the pile, and surrounded him for the photo, standing right at Ground Zero. It must have been about 1:30 in the morning by then. That night Fred and his driver slept on a cot at Seaman's Institute and in the morning helped make deliveries until time to drive back to North Carolina. I am quite sure that Fred Luther gave us an experience we will all remember for the rest of our lives.
These kinds of encounters and amazing exchanges happened literally by the minute for months at Ground Zero. To relate them all would fill volumes. These amazingly courageous people risked their mental and physical health day after day to dig through the ashes and find remains of people they never knew.They are our saints.