Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11: Reflections and remembrances

A cross made from a steel beam of the
World Trade Center is the centerpiece
of a 9/11 memorial at Our Lady of
Sorrows Church in Kearney, N.J.
(CNS photo/Bob Roller)
This week, we continue a 13-part series leading to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, "9/11: Reflections and Remembrances," presented by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. To mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the USCCB has gathered some reflections and remembrances from clergy who ministered to victims and their families, and others who were impacted by the tragedy.

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

By Father James E. Devlin
Diocese of Brooklyn

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. 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 a while, she said to them, "I've been asking you questions for 10 minutes, I'm sorry, are the two of you alright?" 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 buried one of the first firefighters recovered. After communion, someone asked all the uniformed officers present to assemble outside the church. As they got up to leave, all 1,000 in attendance at the Mass spontaneously 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 World Trade Center. We were looking for a "cross." We found a crossbeam, but what I remember was the mountains of everything: elevator cables, I-beams, concrete encrusted steel everywhere. The small "cross" seemed so insignificant in the midst of the wreckage. On a deeper level, the "cross" gave meaning to the mountain.

In "Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring," Henri Nouwen said: "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 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 James E. Devlin is pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

*"Our Greatest Gift:A Meditation on Dying and Caring," (San Francisco: San Francisco Harper, 1994, p. 108)

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