Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Andrew the Apostle,
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that we soberly call 9/11. If you were alive at that time, you know exactly where you were on that day, and exactly what someone means when they say those two words: nine eleven.
I was a naval contractor at that time. My office was in Crystal City, but for a few months, I had been working off-site across the river from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Because of the secrecy of what I was working on, I was in a room with no phone, no internet, no television, ... no connection to the outside world. I remember when my supervisor came in with the confusing news that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. We assumed it was a private plane that had tragically strayed far off track. We had no idea how many people were dead or hurt. We had no idea what would unfold. When someone came in to update us twenty or so minutes later, I went to a conference room with the others and watched in shock as the levels of horror unfolded. I had never known anything like it. None of us had. The evil was hard to comprehend, and we felt helpless and vulnerable in the face of it.
My experience of 9/11 was one of a bystander. I know many of you had a more personal connection, knowing loved ones and friends who were killed in New York City, Shanksville, PA, and in our own diocese at the Pentagon. We pray for those who died marked by the sign of faith, and all victims of terrorism. We pray, too, to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, for an end to such senseless violence and an abundance of peace in our fallen world.
After the 9/11 attacks, we saw a change in our families, neighborhoods, and even our churches. We reached out to loved ones on the phone and in person, appreciating the frailty of our precious gift of life. In response to the attacks on our nation, we hung American flags on our porches and wore patriotic jewelry and clothing. People returned to the faith they had abandoned. Masses were more crowded than I had ever seen them as an adult. We were confronted with evil, with uncertainty, with something beyond our control. For strength, we joined together as a nation. For comfort and for answers, we gathered together before our Lord. Twenty years later, the unity and the faith have faded, so it is good to reflect on how we responded in 2001.
In his pastoral letter "To Remember Well," written to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Bishop Paul Loverde ended with this plea. "I urge the faithful not to forget the events of September 11, 2001, and to pray that we might rediscover the spirit of unity, sacrifice, and prayer which marked the immediate aftermath, while at the same time seeking from God an end to terrorism and violent death throughout the world. May the God of mercy grant fullness of life in His eternal presence to all those who died on September 11 and give all of us who remain the support of His strengthening grace as we journey homeward to Him!"
Many poignant articles and videos have come out this week to help us remember those who lost their lives in 9/11 and those who responded with heroism and sacrifice in the face of this terrorist act. Let me end by including links to a few of them.
Be assured of my prayers for you and your families, that the Lord may protect and guide you, and that you will always remain steadfast in faith, even in the worst of times.