There’s a new 9/11 memorial in Brooklyn. It was dedicated last week on the 12th anniversary of that horrific terrorist attack on America.
The new shrine is located outside St. Athanasius Church, Bensonhurst, and was dedicated by its pastor, Msgr. David Cassato, in memory of two parishioners who died in the World Trade Center – John Frank Rizzo and Paul Silvio Giallombardo.
It consists of a piece of steel from the Trade Center that is surrounded by brick built in the shape of the iconic building that fell in 2001.
“I’m happy this piece of the building has found a permanent resting place,” said Carl Bartolotti, a member of Joseph Cafiero Council of the Knights of Columbus that was instrumental in securing the relic.
“The pain doesn’t dissipate. It’s as present now as it was then,” said Bartolotti. “It’s still very emotional.”
During the memorial Mass that preceded the dedication, Father Brian Jordan, O.F.M., said that “What happened in a few hours back then has changed our nation’s history beyond our comprehension.”
He pointed out that some have asked why God allowed this evil to happen.
“God had nothing to do with it,” he explained. “It was an abuse of free will by 19 men. It had nothing to do with Allah. It had nothing to do with God.”
He asked the parishioners to follow the words of Jesus and to not be bitter but to be better.
“It’s easy to be bitter, but the Lord Jesus is asking us to be better,” said the Franciscan who now serves as a chaplain at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights.
Father Jordan pointed out that it was on 9/11/01 that he met Msgr. Cassato as the two responded to recovery efforts at the sight of the WTC disaster. He said that the two “saw evil at its worst and goodness at its best” that evening as fellow Americans searched through the rubble for the remains of those who perished.
“Monsignor and I saw people from many nations who were hurting that evening,” he recalled. “We were priests and we called people to rise to the occasion. Love transcends all.
“Let us follow today’s Gospel. Blessed are you who are weeping, for you will be better and not bitter.”
Following Mass, Msgr. Cassato sprinkled holy water on the new piece of sacred ground. Family members placed flowers in memory of loved ones. Members of the K. of C. stood at attention in solemn reverence. Parishioners hugged and kissed. And Father Jordan led the gathering in “God Bless America.”
The crowd then moved over to the school hall for a viewing of the film “9/11, An American Requiem,” in which first responders detailed how the events of 2001 had impacted their lives.
Adam Gonzalez, a St. A’s parishioner and a clinical psychologist at the WTC Health Program at Stony Brook University, L.I., that produced the film, admits that the film is emotional and tough to watch, but it sheds light on what people experienced and celebrates the courageous attitudes of so many good people.
Twelve years later, the people of St. Athanasius continue to remember. Their new memorial will assure that the rest of us will never forget.