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Postcard from Brooklyn

The minister of a Unitarian Universalist church in Brooklyn describes a day of shock and mourning.
By W. Frederick Wooden
January/February 2002 1.1.02

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September 11, 2001yA cloud of dust rose like a storm, billowing slow and ominous, obscuring our view. This cloud was moments ago one of the signatures of the city; in it were mingled the flecks of actual people, their clothes and lives obliterated and now hurtling toward us. It was incomprehensible in scope, more shattering to the mind than any Hollywood staging.

I hastened to church, and my wife to the school our boys attend. Just after I arrived we heard the last rumble as the second tower fell. The cloud rushed again. All day long our eyes have burned. The smell of burnt debris permeates the neighborhood. My jacket was lightly covered with gray flecks as I leafleted the area for a prayer service we are hosting tonight.

On the way back I see half burned papers in the street; they are mortgage tables and financial manuals. It is shocking and yet perfectly sensible. I pick some up and bring them back to place in our chalice. We created an altar from the half-burned papers, resting on a tallis, flanked by a Qur'an and cross.

The sanctuary is open and I sit down to play the piano, hymns, while people come in. The folk singer arrives. One moment of relief. The rabbi arrives, in sweat clothes. I think it odd until I see he is wearing a firefighters coat and carrying a helmet. On his back it says Chaplain Potasnik. He has been in the city. I am amazed and grateful.

From an email message sent September 11, 2001, from the minister of the First Unitarian Congregation Society of Brooklyn, New York.

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