September 8, 2006


Five years later, lessons of Sept. 11, 2001, continue

Close your eyes, and the haunting photos or video reappear.

Or you may be someone who has the images seared in your memory.

Flick the switch, and there it is: Live video of United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York. The explosion that results sets the building on fire and sends more plumes of smoke into already-suffocating Manhattan streets.

News that another jet, American Airlines Flight 11, had minutes earlier hit the north or other “Twin Tower” is still “breaking,” with little explanation of how something of this magnitude can occur. Within two hours, both buildings crash to the ground.

Shortly before 10 a.m., reports of American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon near our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., result in more chaos and concern.

Finally, a fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashes in an open field near rural Shanksville, Pa., when passengers attempt to retake control of their plane from the hijackers. (We later learn the hijackers planned to crash the jet into the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.)

In a roughly 90-minute time frame, that serves as the final blow to a country now reeling from what would be one of the most tragic days in U.S. history.

We learn the United Flight 93 scenario represents an example of heroism being duplicated by thousands of brave men and women in New York and Washington, D.C., who enter harm’s way to do what the Gospel calls us to do without fail each day: Help our brothers and sisters in need.

Who could forget the images of New York police officers, firefighters and Port Authority officers running into both World Trade Center towers to save innocent civilians?

Or the 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?

Or the way churches of all denominations were filled to capacity around the nation for weeks, even months afterward, with people who offered prayers to the Lord our God for strength, courage and wisdom, among other things?

It’s been five years since 9/11— Sept. 11, 2001—and the terrorist attacks on America, but the memories, the heartache of losing loved ones, the examples of heroism and the need for prayer live on. In the end, 2,973 people died and another 24 remain listed as missing as a result of the attacks.

No doubt each of us could rewind to that fateful time—to the where we were and what we were doing when we saw or heard the horrible news unfolding—but as time passes, the lessons of that tragic day continue to shed light on the kind of world we live in today.

We know the 19 hijackers who commandeered the four planes were al-Qaeda members, loyal to Osama bin Laden and his holy war against the United States. We may not like to admit it or even think about it, but they continue to plot ways to disrupt the American way—including where innocent men, women and children are concerned.

We must be ever-vigilant and not take anything for granted, but we must also realize that a small sect, not the entire Muslim faith, harbors hatred toward America.

We must teach our children that humankind, in large part, is good, but that evil looms in our world as well.

We must continue to honor the memory of the heroes, the brave men and women like Father Mychal, who gave their lives while helping others. We would do well to emulate their life-and-death example each day, even in ordinary circumstances.

And as we did so well during the weeks and months after 9/11, we must continue to pray for peace.

— Mike Krokos

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