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The day-after spirit changes a man's career

The voltage in his life today has nothing to do with making money.

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The second life of Martin Cowart began with an oily, invisible grit sanding his face and his numbed mind nagging him with questions: "What am I doing here? Where am I going?"

Where he was going a year ago was to St. Paul's Chapelof Trinity Church at the edge of the horror of the World Trade Center, where eventually he would feed thousands of relief workers in the months ahead. No sudden seizure of humanitarianism brought him there. He'd been conscripted out of a once successful but disconnected business career by a call from a cousin who worked at Trinity and knew human need better than Martin did. What Martin knew was profit and loss, how to manage loans, and how to run a restaurant.

For a few days at ground zero, he drifted and coped with the chaos and exhaustion that surrounded him, a man displaced. Through the gray curtains of descending ash, he stared up at the hulk of a bank building where he'd once worked, still standing but now black and dead. The sight left him disoriented. Then he began to work. And in the faces of the men and women he served, he began to learn something deeper about being human, something he'd missed in his banking aeries and in his computers.

He became another Martin Cowart, and he is not a man displaced today.

The compass heading in Martin's life today no longer swings randomly as it did in his 25 years in business and in his search for identity. The arrow is fixed on tomorrow. He is a man in the grip of a powerful and consuming force, an idea that has become a Grail for workers and volunteers brought together by the epic of the World Trade Center. For them, it began with a discovery that rose from the transcending grief. Many were mainstream religious believers, like Martin, and some were not. But almost all felt a kind of liberating grace of shared trust, humility, and love in the service they gave and received, infusing them with a purpose larger than themselves.

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