Trinity Church Wall Street rings the Bell of Hope at St. Paul's Chapel every year on the morning of September 11. The solemn ritual is both a memorial to the 3,000 persons killed during the 9/11 attacks of 2001, and a symbol of the triumph of hope over tragedy.
The bell itself was a gift from the City of London, connecting two cities and parishes. It also shares a heritage with two other bells which are among the most renowned in history.
Ringing the Bell of Hope each year on September 11 is a brief, but intensely emotional service which offers prayers, including the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. The Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street, the Rev. Phillip Jackson, rings the bell in a precise pattern, four sets of five rings, which is the traditional salute of the Fire Department of New York to honor fallen comrades. Among the dead on 9/11 were more than 400 uniformed personnel, including 343 firefighters.
"It never loses for me its poignancy," said Father Jackson. "We lost so many of our people that day. We mourn them, we miss them, and we're here to remember them."
We lost so many of our people that day. We mourn them, we miss them, and we're here to remember them.
The Rev. Phillip Jackson, Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street
The bell is rung at an exact moment, 8:46am, the time the first hijacked plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Trinity Church Wall Street received the bell in September 2002, on the first anniversary of the attacks. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. George Carey, and the Lord Mayor of London, Michael Oliver, participated in the ceremony in the nave of Trinity Church. As the inscription on the bell explains, it's a gift from the City of London to the City of New York, “Forged in adversity—11.September.2001”
The bell is also considered a gift from the Anglican Church parish of St. Mary-le-Bow in the Cheapside neighborhood of London. Trinity and St. Mary-le-Bow consider themselves sister parishes. When Trinity’s charter was written in 1697, it was patterned after the charter of St. Mary’s, a parish that dates back almost a thousand years. More recently, after St. Mary-le-Bow’s church building was destroyed by Nazi bombs during the Second World War, Trinity contributed to its reconstruction. The angel above Trinity’s Cherub Gate on Trinity Place, recovered from the wartime wreckage of the London church, is an earlier gift of gratitude from St. Mary-le-Bow.
In the months before the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the bell was cast at Whitechapel Bell Foundry, whose history dates from the 16th century, scarcely a generation after the Reformation. Whitechapel Foundry also cast the Liberty Bell in 1752 and the bell called “Big Ben” in the Elizabeth Tower of the House of Parliament in London.
The bell received its name, Bell of Hope, more than a year after it was received by Trinity. St. Paul’s Chapel had remained open 24/7 for nine months following 9/11, providing food, rest, and relief to the workers clearing the wreckage of the towers.
Recognizing the chapel’s close connection to the World Trade Center site, Trinity opened the western gate to the chapel grounds, as noted in the November 2003 minutes of the parish Vestry, “to further enhance the ministry of St. Paul’s Chapel to visitors at ground zero… In addition, the bell donated to Trinity Church by the city of London will be named the Bell of Hope…”
Over the past 20 years, Trinity has rung the Bell of Hope at other times, especially on occasions of mass shootings. There have been some years during those two decades when almost a million people visited St. Paul’s, often on a pilgrimage to honor the sacrifices of both the living and dead.
However, it’s the brief liturgy, renewed each year on the morning of September 11, the ringing of a bell and the prayers that follow, which ensures a uniquely powerful role for the Bell of Hope for years to come.