Nine Eleven. An event that changed America and the world. I’m sure everyone can recall what they were doing at the time. I was on my way home from the funeral of a priest - Father John Daly - who had had a deep effect upon me and my family when I was a young boy. Quite possibly I owe my vocation in large part to him. As a newly ordained priest he consecrated our home and family to the Sacred Heart, he taught me how to serve Mass, he frequently visited unannounced and blessed images and Rosaries… I had decided not to have the car radio on but to drive home in silence. When I got home the Chair of the parish council phoned me and referred to ―terrible events in America‖ and then moved on to the matter he wanted to discuss. Then a friend phoned and asked if I had my TV on and whether I had seen the planes hitting the twin towers, and had I heard the news of the plane that hit the Pentagon. I hadn’t. There and then, while still on the phone, I switched the TV on and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Today will be a day of much remembering, a day of thoughtful reflection, a day for prayer. It is regrettable that public prayer has - at least at the time I write this - been excluded from the acts of remembrance that will be held at Ground Zero. Prayer is instinctive to man. I bet that many who considered themselves non-religious found within themselves the desire to pray on 9/11.
On the occasions when I have visited New York City, I have always tried to pay a visit to Ground Zero. It feels like a pilgrimage that one must make when one is so close to a place of such tragedy. It is a place where one asks how such an event could have been conceived in the hearts of men. It is a place where one realizes how quickly what man builds can be destroyed. It is a place where one makes contact with the lives of the individuals who lived and worked and died in that place, and where one ponders the heroism of so many who took part in - and lost their lives in - the rescue efforts. It is a place where one prays for those who died and who lost loved ones. It is a place where one prays that enmity between human beings will cease, that we may all be one in Christ who "is all and in all."
It is also a place where I find the spirit of America. In visiting the memorial center nearby, I was touched to learn how, whenever a dead body - or what was left of one - was found in the rubble, work would stop, people would be silent, the American flag was laid over the remains on the stretcher, and a moment of prayer was observed: great dignity in the midst of grief.
The bulletin cover today carries the image of the Cross-shaped steel beams that were found in the rubble or the World Trade Center, as if the Lord wanted to remind everyone - and the world - that His Son had already taken upon himself the suffering and death of all involved in this event. It was from the Cross that the Lord uttered his prayer for forgiveness for those who "know not what they do."
God bless you. Fr John.