Put Out into the Deep

The Attack That Shook the Foundations of Our Society

“We all put out into the deep waters of post-9/11 remembrance,” Bishop DiMarzio says. (File photo)

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

This year, Patriot Day will be observed on Friday, September 11, the 19th Anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville in Pennsylvania. Each year, Patriot Day is celebrated in remembrance of all those who were killed or injured by the terrorist attack.

We all remember where we were on that day. I, myself, was in Washington, DC, attending an administrative board meeting of the United States Bishops’ Conference. As the meeting began, we heard planes flying over Washington in an effort to protect the White House, following the plane that flew directly into the Pentagon. We all will never forget seeing the vivid scenes on television of the crumbling of the Twin Towers. This was even more vivid for those who were there at the time, the first responders, all those who responded to assist those in need, and all those who lost relatives on that terrible day.

Each year since then, relatives of the 2,977 people who were killed on that fateful day are invited to gather on the memorial plaza in lower Manhattan for a memorial event. This year, all must adhere to State and Federal coronavirus pandemic safety guidelines. We have been told that, “Out of an abundance of caution and in line with the guidance regarding social distancing,” family members will not have an opportunity to give a personal tribute on stage to those whom they lost. In many cases, doing so brings some closure to the terrible memories of 9/11. The saga of that day, however, continues. People still lose their lives to cancer and related illnesses caused by their simply being at or near Ground Zero in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks.

Over 110 New York City firefighters have reportedly died of their 9/11 injuries since September 11, 2001. And more are expected to die of these illnesses in the coming years. More than 7,000 FDNY firefighters and EMTs have been treated for a 9/11 injury or illness, now 19 years later.

On September 11, 2001, nearly two decades ago, 23 New York City police officers lost their lives in the moments immediately following the fall of the Twin Towers, along with 37 officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department. In 2019, that death total climbed to 241 NYPD officers. The 241 officers who have died from 9/11-related illnesses are ten times the number of officers killed in the World Trade Center attack.

The World Trade Center Health Registry of the New York City Department of Health suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are the most common effect of 9/11. The fact is, we can never forget the tragedy that shook the foundations of our society and our trust in our government to protect us.

More than 68 different types of cancers are on the list of 9/11-related illnesses identified by the federal government, ranging from asthma to skin cancer. It seems that more than 2,000 people have died of 9/11-related illnesses.

As we can clearly see, the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks on our nation continue to today. All of them bring about memories we thought we could forget as time goes on. This is, however, a reminder that the safety of our nation depends on the vigilance of our government and of every citizen.

In particular, we must remember the first responders as they selflessly came to rescue those who they could and worked for weeks on recovery efforts. We particularly remember our own NYPD Chaplains — Msgr. Robert Romano and Msgr. David Cassato — and our NYFD Chaplain, Msgr. John Delendick — as well as the many of our own priests of Brooklyn and Queens, who ran to that awful scene in Lower Manhattan.

They went to assist in a time of recovery efforts, not only to minister to the survivors, but also to minister to the first responders. We must never forget the sacrifice and heroism of so many on that day and in the weeks that followed.

The unfortunate decision to cancel the Tribute in Light memorial came about after the 9/11 Memorial and Museum canceled the in-person reading of the names of those lives lost at Ground Zero. Thankfully, the Tribute in Light is now back thanks in part to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, chair of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. In a statement on the issue, he said, “Throughout my tenure as Mayor, the Tribute in Light was a powerful symbol of New York’s recovery after 9/11. I am pleased that once again it will shine this year as a beacon of our city’s resilience.” The contribution of Mayor Bloomberg has allowed this tribute to be able to continue this year.

As a city and as a nation, we all put out into the deep waters of post-9/11 remembrance. We remember those who were killed, those who survived, those who came to their rescue, and those who sacrificed themselves in many ways then and now. We can never forget this tragedy, which marked a turning point in the understanding of our society of national security and pride. We must continue our efforts to defend the security of our country from forces of external and internal origin. Without such security, we can never assure peace, a peace that allows us to live as God intended. Join me today as we pray for the lives lost on 9/11 and since that day of all who were involved in ameliorating this terrible tragedy.

Follow Bishop DiMarzio on: Twitter @BpDiMarzio