Unity at Ground Zero

Unity at Ground Zero

Christmas tree, menorah and cross at ground zero, December 2001. Photo by Kerri Courtney

New Yorkers were united in many ways after Sept. 11, but the spirit of togetherness was especially strong during the holidays.

On Dec. 24, 2001, Father Brian J. Jordan, a Franciscan priest at St. Francis of Assisi Church who lost his mentor Father Mychal Judge on 9/11, led a midnight Mass. Through word-of-mouth invitation, nearly 200 people, including victims’ family members, recovery workers and first responders, gathered around a large cross forged from World Trade Center steel. The cross, later named Cross at Ground Zero, now stands in the Museum’s historical exhibition.

"We saw goodness at its best when the country and the city came together. People were praying together and it was a catharsis for them," Father Jordan recalled.

In another demonstration of unity, carpenters working a ground zero also built a platform for a menorah that was placed next to a 20-foot Christmas tree.

"That was a proud moment," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis and chaplain for the FDNY. Potasnik recalls the carpenters saying, "'Your menorah is not tall enough. We got to make it taller.' They would volunteer their free time [to build the platform] and made sure that Hanukkah and Christmas were on equal footing."

By 9/11 Memorial Staff