The historic chapel, whose graveyard overlooks the World Trade Center site, served as a refuge for rescue workers for months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. They rested, ate and washed here before heading out again.
The iron fence surrounding St. Paul's Chapel was filled with notes, flowers and mementos honoring the dead for years.
On Tuesday, the black fence was bare. And traffic passed by on Broadway, with pedestrians scurrying to their daily destinations.
But inside, a different kind of intensity surrounded a table filled with burning candles. The house of worship that became known as "the little chapel that stood" was a meeting place for dozens of volunteers who more than a decade ago helped feed and comfort hundreds of exhausted rescue workers looking for human remains at ground zero.
"It's nice that this year's ceremony is for the families, not politicians," said Arthur Gudeon, a Queens podiatrist who for eight months after 9/11 set up his foot treatment station inside a square wooden pew space that was once George Washington's.
"Today, the families are the most important people," he said, though he would have liked the ceremony to be seen on a screen outside the site.
What saddens him, though, is that most of the banners, letters and other memorabilia mailed or left by strangers are no longer on display in the chapel, which still hosts an exhibit on 9/11.
"But where are the pews?" asked Deborah Tuthill, a massage therapist from Westchester County who treated rescue workers for eight months.
Most of the pews were removed to make room for streams of post 9/11 visitors to the chapel.
"It's sterile now," Tuthill said. "The pews — they slept in them, and left scratch marks, and you could touch the pews and feel the energy" of the tired, emotionally beaten rescue workers.
The chapel remains a source of consolation and inspiration for many New Yorkers and visitors.
Anniversary prayers for peace were being offered there. The day also included the ringing of the Bell of Hope, a gift from London to New York City in 2002.