There are days that will be remembered, detail for detail, in our minds. And for many of us, Sept. 11, 2001 is undoubtedly one of those days. We, as a nation and as a world, saw the worst in humanity. We witnessed bloodthirsty men, corrupted by hatred, fueled with one desire – death, chaos and destruction. These terrorists had one aim – to strike fear and to cause the American people to lose heart. So many people – good, innocent people – died on that day. We saw – in these hijackers, in those involved in the masterminding of this horror – the prime example of just how bad humanity can be. We witnessed the effects of a fallen world.
We also saw the very best in humanity on Sept. 11, 2001. We saw a nation, united in grief, yes, but more so a nation united in the hope and promise that these innocent victims did not die in vain. Coming to the rescue were our first-responders, living out their pledge to save others, even at the cost of their own lives.
Our own men and women from Brooklyn and Queens, among so many others, generously dove into that pile of destruction for one reason and one reason only: They wanted to help.
Names like Timothy Stackpole, Vincent Brunton, Kenny Phelan and so many other public servants will forever be remembered for giving up their lives in the service of others. The death toll from the attacks stands at 2,977 – including 2,753 killed at the World Trade Center, 184 killed at the Pentagon and 40 killed in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
And we cannot forget those who have died from the effects of the recovery effort as the years passed and the thousands more who suffer emotionally, psychologically and spiritually as a result of the attacks.
We truly saw the best in people, including our clergy. Father Mychal Judge set the example as he died shortly after rushing to the scene to assist the injured and dying.
Who can forget the images published here in The Tablet, among other places, of our own Bishop-Emeritus Thomas V. Daily, walking among the wreckage the very next day, blessing, anointing, offering the healing that can only come from Christ to those at Ground Zero?
Who can forget the priests, like Msgr. John Delendick, fire department chaplain, and Msgr. Robert Romano, police chaplain, who generously volunteered to go to Ground Zero to bless the remains of those killed as the remains continued to be discovered from September to December?
Who can forget the many priests offering the comfort that can only come from Christ in the Eucharist at funeral Mass after funeral Mass, like Msgr. Martin Geraghty, then-pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor, hit so hard by the despicable tragedy?
Yes, we witnessed the worst in humanity and we witnessed the best in humanity on Sept. 11, 2001. We cannot let this day pass by without pausing to think of those who lost their lives on this tragic day. We cannot let this day pass by without pledging in our hearts that we will become men and women for others, inspired by the example of those who lost their lives on this day.
We will never forget the events of Sept. 11, 2001. It can’t become just another day as the years pass, and more and more people who were not born at the time or are too young to remember the day must not grow up without a sense of what occurred.
Take the time and thank God for the gift of the lives of those men and women whom we loved and lost and whom we long to see again. A popular slogan after Sept. 11, 2001 read “9/11 – Never Forget.” As men and women of faith, hope and charity, let’s never forget, and let’s teach the next generation to understand exactly what happened on that fateful Tuesday morning.