The historic Episcopal parish, which dates to 1698 (the current church building, Trinity's third, was erected in 1846), was shrouded with ash, which also covered much of its interior, even clogging the pipes of Trinity's two magnificent organs. Its rector couldn't be certain that the building was structurally sound. He closed its doors.
Yesterday, nearly two months after that grimmest of days, Trinity marked its resurrection with an All Saints' high Mass - minus the organs, whose fate is in doubt. The Rev. E. Don Taylor, a vicar bishop of the New York, was the celebrant. Two babies were baptized during the service, their cries sending a ripple of what sounded like grateful laughter through the standing-room only crowd.
The rector, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Paul Matthews, estimated over 1,000 people had come to re-open the parish. "We usually have about 400 here," he said later. "I've never seen anything like it. I had no idea the outpouring would be so enormous."
Matthews said folks there may not have realized how much their church meant to them until it was taken away temporarily. "Sometimes when you fast, you create a heightened awareness of who you are, and your needs," he said. "We have been fasting here a long time, not being able to come in."
During the Mass, Trinity clergy thanked and honored the Rev. Peter Meehan, pastor of nearby Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church, which houses the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton - an adult convert to Catholicism who had been baptized, raised and married at Trinity Church.
Meehan, who was present at yesterday's Episcopal liturgy, opened the doors of his parish to the Trinity congregation immediately after the disaster, giving the Episcopalians a worship home until their own church could reopen.
For Carol Zacharias, who is both a Trinity vestrywoman and a resident of the devastated downtown neighborhood, the return to her church home was a deeply emotional event. "They can take away my work. They can take away my home. Nobody should be able to take my church," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "We stayed together, we stayed strong, and they didn't do that."