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FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2013, file photo, Charlotte Newman, 8, visits the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Read more 9/11 20th anniversary coverage from the Times Free Press here

The Rev. Brad Whitaker, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, was serving a parish in Northwest New Jersey when America was attacked.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, he began working as a volunteer chaplain at St. Paul's Chapel, which is just blocks away from where the twin towers stood.

"For nearly a year, St. Paul's offered a literal sanctuary for firefighters, police officers, federal officials and other construction workers who had the task of searching through the dangerous rubble," Whitaker said in a statement recounting the time.

The church offered cots and food for the workers, as well as rooms of donated boots. The heat from fires in the rubble would melt the soles of the workers' shoes.

During one of his overnight shifts, Whitaker said he received a call from the Ground Zero site supervisor. Human remains had been found in the rubble and the fire chaplain, who would normally oversee the removal of remains, was not available.

"Having never had my life journey intersected with this particular humbling, honorable and yet gruesome task, I drew on what I knew about our own traditional funeral processions," he said. "I recited the resurrection anthem we read as we process a body or ashes into the church followed by the family."

The anthem reminds listeners that those who have faith in God will have eternal life, even after the death of the body.

When the remains were placed in a vehicle, the people searching through the fallen towers returned to their work, Whitaker said.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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