Remembering ‘The Little Chapel That Stood’

A photo from inside St. Paul’s Chapel in the days after 9/11 shows American flags, tributes, and other items hanging all over the interior of the church. Several people are sitting in the pews.
A look inside St. Paul's Chapel in the days after 9/11. Photo by Larry Racioppo.

St. Paul’s Chapel, constructed in 1766, is the oldest church building in Manhattan. Located less than 100 yards from the World Trade Center site, the church became known as “The Little Chapel That Stood” after it survived the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. It is widely believed the church was protected by a giant sycamore tree that was planted in St. Paul’s graveyard.

In the tragic aftermath of 9/11, St. Paul’s Chapel became a haven for rescue and recovery workers at Ground Zero. More than 5,000 volunteers worked long hours at the church, cleaning, serving hot meals, and providing comfort to all who came to the church for rest and refuge. 

On Saturday, Nov. 21, at 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., 9/11 Memorial Museum visitors with children will have the opportunity to meet one of those volunteers, Paula Kelberman, who will be reading the classic children’s book “The Little Chapel That Stood” in a free Stories & Art program. An art activity will follow the reading. 

As the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, Kelberman always felt strongly about performing acts of kindness and giving back to her community. 

In fall 2001, Kelberman was determined to aid in the recovery effort and found an opportunity to volunteer at St. Paul’s Chapel through her synagogue. St. Paul’s asked their volunteers to work 12-hour shifts, and Kelberman typically worked nights and overnights. She quickly became friends with the St. Paul’s staff and rescue and recovery workers. Kelberman volunteered at St. Paul’s Chapel from fall 2001 until the Last Column ceremony in May 2002. Today, Kelberman still serves her New York community by taking school groups to the museum and she also exhibits at St. Paul’s Chapel. 

Reflecting back on her time she says, “It was an honor to volunteer at St. Paul’s and be a part of such an extraordinary community.” 

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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