NEW YORK —
As Madigan, another priest and some police officers hustled toward an emergency aid station on the opposite side of the World Trade Center, they overheard firefighters say that one, or both, of the towers were in danger of collapsing. He thought such a scenario was unlikely, but looked for escape routes as he and the others moved along together. Madigan spotted the subway entrance, which extended to another entry several blocks beyond the WTC site. At that moment, he felt a “dull rumble.”
“I saw in the distance the tower beginning to implode,” he said. “But I didn’t know if it was going to implode, or fall, in our direction or what. So I yelled to the police officers who were with me and the other priest, ‘Down here!’ And we all ran down the stairs to the entrance of the subway station and just huddled against the walls there, not knowing if that [subway tunnel] was going to collapse on top of us, or whatever. Thank God, fortunately it didn’t.”
Powdery gray and beige dust filled the corridor. Madigan and the others began choking. “But then it just subsided,” he said. Struggling to see, they linked arms and began walking along the subway platform, guided by one of the officers’ flashlights, eventually emerging from an exit a few blocks away, just as Madigan had envisioned.
As the church and its neighborhood slowly recovered, one vestige of the catastrophe stood beside St. Peter’s.
A steel beam, still bolted to a sheared-off crossbar, was uncovered in the rubble two days after 9/11. It resembled a cross, and became a source of inspiration for workers searching for victims. In 2006, the “Ground Zero Cross” was placed in front of St. Peter’s wall along Church Street, causing passers-by to often stop for photographs. It remained there until July 23, when it was moved to the new WTC site and lowered by crane into the 9/11 Museum, along with other relics of the damage, such as a fire engine, ambulance, subway car, and a staircase from one of the towers.