Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering 9-11: St. Paul's Chapel Poem by J. Chester Johnson

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The steeple of St. Paul's Chapel.

It stood. Not a window broken. Not a stone dislodged.
It stood when nothing else did.
It stood when terrorists brought September down.
It stood among myths. It stood among ruins.

To stand was its purpose, long lines prove that.
It stands, and around it now, a shrine of letters,
poems, acrostics, litter of the heart.
It is the standing people want:
To grieve, serve and tend
celebrate the lasting stone of St. Paul's Chapel.

And deep into its thick breath, the largest banner
fittingly from Oklahoma climbs heavenward
with hands as stars, hands as stripes, hands as a flag;
and a rescuer reaches for a stuffed toy
to collect a touch;
and George Washington's pew doesn't go unused.

Charity fills a hole or two.

It stood in place of other sorts.
It stood when nothing else could.
The great had fallen, as the brute hardware came down.

It stood.


— J. Chester Johnson


The poem, St. Paul’s Chapel by J. Chester Johnson has been used since 2002 as the memento card at St. Paul’s Chapel. In the year after 9/11 the chapel served as a relief mission and the spiritual home for recovery workers at Ground Zero.

Johnson was one of the many who volunteered their time to help with the clean up. The poem has been called the country’s most widely read piece of recent verse.

St. Paul’s Chapel also appears in the author's St. Paul’s Chapel & Selected Shorter Poems published in 2010.