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Voices from Ground Zero

Joseph Bradley found new heroes at Ground Zero.

Krystyna Sanderson

Whether you’re a policeman or an ironworker, a commodities trader or construction worker, missionary or sanitation worker, fireman or rocker, in the pit of enormous human need at Ground Zero everyone seems to be discovering we’re all more generous, less fearful, more accepting, less judgmental, more compassionate, both more vulnerable and yet somehow stronger than we ever, ever thought we could be.

This article appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. Within hours of the attack on the World Trade Center, people began to wrestle with the spiritual question, “What shall we do with our grief?” For thousands, the answer was to reach out and help others in any way they could. Soon it became apparent that their service would become an unparalleled American epic, showing the capacity of our people to pour out a relentless love for one another in the midst of suffering and pain. As a scholar of New York City’s spiritual history, also volunteering in the midst of the recovery, I realized that one way I could help was to create an archive, recording stories of selflessness in the words of those compelled to lend a hand. As I’ve traveled the country, these five interviews have proved to be some of the stories most cherished by listeners from all walks of life. …

Courtney V. Cowart, Th.D. was an adjunct professor at the Center for Christian Spirituality at the General Theological Seminary in New York in 2002. These interviews are excerpts from "Tragedy as Transformation," a presentation Dr. Cowart gives to universities, nonprofits, and churches around the country. She was a finalist for a grant from the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love to support a major two-year study of altruism, compassion, and service at Ground Zero.

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