September 3, 2021

Editorial

9/11, its heroes remind us we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States in this week’s issue of The Criterion, the words above from the Gospel of John come to mind. 

It is indeed true, we believe, that no American woke up on the morning of 9/11 thinking it would be one of the most tragic days in our country’s history. 

Yet, the heinous acts of a group of terrorists turned a beautiful, sun-splashed morning on the East Coast into a day of infamy. 

The fact that nearly 3,000 souls perished on 9/11 reminds us that we never know the time and place when God will call us home. It also teaches the hard truth that our lives on Earth may end through the evil acts of others. 

Many ask the questions: “Where was God on this morning?” Or, “Why did God let this happen?” 

The actions of that day remind us of the free will our Creator gives us. Sadly, it shows how some use it for evil means. 

While there is continued sadness as we mark two decades since 9/11 occurred—and it is a sadness we believe will linger for generations—we are also reminded of the brave and courageous actions of so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ during the chaotic aftermath of hijacked planes hitting both towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and another airliner hitting the Pentagon just outside Washington. 

The passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 will always be remembered for their heroism. Reports said their plane was headed toward the White House or U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where hijackers allegedly planned to crash it into one of those iconic buildings in our nation’s capital. 

Learning of the other hijackings taking place through phone calls with loved ones, the Flight 93 passengers overtook the hijackers on their plane. The aircraft crashed in an open field near rural Shanksville, Pa., where all aboard died. 

The heroic actions didn’t end there. There are stories of first responders—firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and countless others—rushing into harm’s way to do all they could to assist their fellow man.

Sadly, many of them lost their lives as well, doing what they were called to do, no matter the price. 

A poignant photo of Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, a New York Fire Department chaplain who died while ministering last rites to a firefighter at the scene of the World Trade Center attacks, will always be remembered. 

Images captured strangers helping strangers during the resulting chaos. Our Catholic faith, and many faith traditions, teach us: we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. 

While we will remember 9/11 as one of the most tragic days in America’s history, we must never forget as followers of God that we are a people who strive to bring peace to all corners of the globe. 

It is by no means, an easy task. 

Let us always remember what the “Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi” instructs us: 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen. 

If you’re a student of history, Sept. 11, 2001, will always be among the lessons you remember. 

If you’re a person of faith, you must pray that another tragedy of epic proportions, where there is tremendous loss of life, will never again occur—anywhere. 

Please, Lord, may it be so.

—Mike Krokos

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