Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11 on the 10th Anniversary

I'm sure there is no coincidence that the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 fell on a Sunday. 9/11 is, of course, one of those dates that we will forever reflect upon and Sunday is a God-given day for reflection.

Today is a day when we ask one another: "Where were you when....?" Along with our parents' "I was doing ______ when I found out JFK had been shot" or perhaps even our grandparents' "I was _______ when Pearl Harbor was bombed." It's a day when everyone remembers exactly where they were when.

Prior to 9/11, the only thing my generation had as an approximate equivalent was perhaps the Oklahoma City Bombing. I remember being in 8th grade and being asked to stand next to my desk for a moment of silence as we watched the names of all those children who had died scroll across the TV.

As the anniversary approached, many people started to ask the question and reflect on: "where were you during 9/11?" I met a friend for coffee on Friday who happened to be my Campus Minister at CUA ten years ago and we discussed where we were that day. We were both on campus during 9/11. I was in my junior year Media seminar. She was working in Campus Ministry.

I remember my professor stopping class and pulling up the article on the internet that announced that one of the towers at the World Trade Center had been hit. I had just been to the World Trade Center for the first time almost exactly one year prior with some friends who showed me around NYC. There was an image along with the article up on screen that will always, of course, be etched in my mind. There it was: a plane dangling out of the middle of the World Trade Center building.

Classes were cancelled and I walked down towards the campus ministry office. As I walked, I was stopped by an acquaintance who asked me: "did you hear the Pentagon was hit too?" I shook my head. I hadn't heard, but it was also in disbelief.

Then I remember being afraid for the first time during this day. The Pentagon was far enough from Catholic U, but what if people were going to try and hit the Capitol building which was only 2-3 miles away? We would, of course, find out later that this was indeed part of the plan, had not some brave men and women crashed the plane in PA to save the nation's capitol.

I met the priest I was close with at Campus Ministry and he asked me if I would help spread the word about a Mass the university was going to put together with the President of the University and Cardinal McCarrick. I said I would. My parents tried to call me while I was running around distributing flyers. When I returned to my room in the middle of the day, I had voice messages on the answering machine (pre-cell phone!) from my parents, my sister, and one of my best friends who lived in KY wondering where I was and if I was alright.

I went to the Mass and then I went to a place on campus called "The House" where some of my friends lived. I remember sitting with one of my best friends, watching the news as the second tower just crumbled. I couldn't believe I was watching it happen live on TV. I tried to block out images of what I knew were people jumping from the building. I just held my breath and prayed.

It was a sunny, beautiful day weather wise. I remember wearing a T-shirt and jeans (a rarity for me, come to think of it! I'm not a T-Shirt and jeans kind of girl, as we know ;). The weather was similar to that of today as I now sit in my t-shirt and mesh shorts having just come from the gym, lesson planning in my own classroom ten years later.

This 10th anniversary of Sept. 11th comes literally after seven days and seven nights of rain here in the District. We have had recent hurricanes and earthquakes, and school was even cancelled on Friday because of flooding in the NoVa area. Looking at images and articles on Facebook made me paranoid that this could be the end of the world, especially with the anniversary of 9/11 coming. This is, of course, a paranoid point-of-view and not the way to live as Christians. We have Christ as our hope to trust in.

I expected there to be some kind of memoriam before, during, or after Mass today. I did not expect, however, for the Church to do a Requiem Mass. I had read the readings for today and they were all about forgiveness. Perfect messages for an anniversary such as this, I thought.

When I walked into my parish, I should have known something was up. The veil that usually is white which lays across the tabernacle was purple today- a penitential color. I knew it wasn't Advent or Lent, so there had to be some reason for it! (I love that our Church gives us cues- we can tell there's going to be something special going on from the vestments the priest wears, liturgical colors, etc. I also LOVE in a ridiculous liturgy-nerd way that our parish lays a veil over the tabernacle to begin with, but that's another blog for another time ;)

Father processed in wearing the black garments that I had taught my students about, but never actually seen for myself. There are very few occasions on which black vestments are worn. Even the funerals I've been to have been white, purple, or green vestments depending on the priest and parish.

The readings were from Lamentations, Psalm 23, Paul's Letter to the Romans, and John's Gospel of Jesus as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." And while I was disappointed to not have the original readings for the day proclaimed on forgiveness, these certainly provided messages of comfort and hope.

The Mass ended in silence with no recessional hymn, but silence and four bell tolls which I thought was pretty powerful. I never ceased to be amazed at the power of silence.

As I drove to the gym and school this afternoon to complete my post-Mass Sunday routine of workout and lesson planning disciplines respectively, I forgot that I would be going past the Pentagon. Traffic was a little backed up because the Pentagon had provided additional police today. Security was heightened around the district this weekend, as you can imagine. Cars were no doubt stopping to see if anything was being done around the Pentagon today to commemorate the event. There wasn't anything that I could see, but I saw the large flag placed on the side of the building where the plane had crashed and I remembered.

Thank you for indulging me in this reflection. You all know I'm not a particularly patriotic person, but I am a reflective one :) And there is no doubt that this event affected us each deeply, regardless of faith or politics.

The hymn we sang at Mass today was the same one we sang at the Mass I helped to spread the word about 10 years ago:

"O God our Help in Ages Past, our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home."

We will never forget. And we should always remember our hope in Christ, especially on days like this.


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