Up Front and Personal

Remember Love of 9/11

by Father James Devlin

Remember the Alamo!
Remember Pearl Harbor!
Remember 9/11!

We say we will remember, but I am not sure we have.  We recall the faces in The New York Times, but we cannot live at the intensity of those days.  Just watching the news at night brought tears to your eyes.  It was a time of great pain and great love.  It was a time of testing and a time of faith.  It was a time of endings and beginnings.

I remember accompanying two Fire Department officers to notify the wife of a deceased firefighter.  We entered an apartment filled with people.  I sat next to the wife on the sofa and after listening to the officers for awhile, she said to them, “I’ve been asking you questions for 10 minutes.  I’m sorry, are the two of you all right?”  I was mesmerized!  What concern for others at a time she had every reason to be self-absorbed.

I remember when Our Lady of Angels parish, Bay Ridge, where I was pastor at the time, buried one of the first firefighters recovered.  After communion, an announcement asked all the uniformed officers present to assemble outside the church.   As they got up to leave, spontaneously all 1,000 in attendance at the Mass, rose and faced them and applauded as if to say, “Thank you for risking your lives for us.”

I remember that there were far too many children left fatherless and motherless.  I will always remember the outpouring of love, faith and courage witnessed during those days.

I remember in January, 2002, going to New Jersey where the debris had been gathered from the Trade Center.  We were looking for a “cross.”  We found a cross-beam, but what I remember was the mountains of everything.  Elevator cables, I-beams, concrete encrusted steel was everywhere.  The small “cross” seemed so insignificant in the midst of the wreckage.  On a deeper level, the “cross” gave meaning to the mountain.

As I close, I remember a line from Henri Nouwen’s Our Greatest Gift:  A Meditation on Dying and Caring: “Not only the death of Jesus, but our death, too, is destined to be good for others.  Not only the death of Jesus, but our death, too, is meant to bear  fruit in other peoples’ lives.  Not only the death of Jesus, but our death,  too, will bring the Spirit of God to those we leave behind . . . Thus God’s  Spirit of love continues to be sent to us, and Jesus’ death continues to  bear fruit through all whose death is like his death, a death for others.”

The deaths of those who died on 9/11/01 continue to bear fruit.  They left a legacy of love.  So what I remember most of 9/11 is the love . . . always the love.

Father Devlin is the pastor of Good Shepherd parish, Marine Park.