As I was looking at all of the news coverage these days of the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I started to think about what I was doing that day and how it all unfolded for me.
I remember as if it were yesterday, our development director at Archbishop Carroll coming into my office and asking if I had heard about a plane flying into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. In my mind I pictured a small plane that had somehow gotten knocked off course and sadly had hit the side of the building.
I answered “No, I hadn’t heard”.
So we turned on the little TV that was in my conference room just as the second plane, a commercial airline jet, hit one of the towers and a ball of fire came out the other side of the structure. We were both stunned.
I remember having to make an announcement to the student body about what had happened…and then there was the growing fear for some of the faculty because they knew of people or had family members who worked at the World Trade Center.
The Archdiocese called for an early dismissal that day. Those were the early days of the cell phones and they were all ringing off the hook with parents wanting to come and pick up their kids. There were times in the day when I thought I was watching a movie. But one thing we knew early on…things would never be the same.
But there’s something else I remember. It was coming back here to St John Neumann and seeing Sister Carol. We both shared our experiences of the day and then she said, “Why don’t we have a prayer service tonight in church?” So, we put something together pretty quickly, and made a few phone calls to get the word out.
The church was packed as you could imagine. And I remember thinking how this tragedy had brought us all together. There was something actually beautiful about seeing the full church that night. Everyone sort of shell shocked and thinking that the best place to go in a time like this was to church—to be united as a faith community and asking God to help us.
I read an opinion piece on Friday about the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and this sentence jumped out at me: “Remember the victims and the heroes, but most of all remember the feeling of (national) unity.”
The feeling of unity.
That’s something that our country desperately needs these days.
In Mark today Jesus says to all of us, “If you believe in me then you have to be willing to look at life, and life’s situations, the way that God wants you to see them. What does Christ say to Peter? “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
So, as we look at our lives over these past twenty years, and the life of our nation, we pray for all those who lost their lives in the tragedy of that day, in New York City, and also at the Pentagon and in the fields of Pennsylvania. It’s still hard to wrap our minds around what happened, yet the call to unity in prayer is essential so that we don’t respond to evil the way our human instinct would want us to respond, but through God’s grace we try to respond as the Lord would want us to respond.
We remember the unity that took place almost instinctively here at SJN in 2001 and we pray for healing from division and we pray for the protection of our nation and our world. We also say thank you to all first responders (firefighters, healthcare workers, and police…) We have been through so much these past 18 months and we are grateful for all you have done to bring healing and peace to our broken world.
So, in unity and faith we stand together. And as you consider what you might do to live out our theme this weekend to “Do Something Beautiful for God”, consider one or more of these five suggestions:
Offer Mass or the Rosary for those who died on 9/11 and their families.
Thank a first responder.
Make a Holy Hour for peace in our world.
Volunteer to serve: Do an act of kindness in honor of those who have died.