9/11 ten years later – a tear drop

by | Sep 4, 2011 | Justice and Peace | 4 comments

This little known monument, “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,”  dedicated on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, gives some expression to the magnitude of grief occasioned by the events of 9/11. It is a gift from President Vladimir Putin, the people of Russia and the artist, Zurab Tsereteli, to the people of the United States.”. (It also provoked some consternation for a variety of reasons.)

As we look back to that day that changed the world as we know it , it might be life-giving for us to review the response of the Vincentian Family.

Sister Regina Bechtle’s article “In the Face of Adversity – The Response of the Vincentian and Charity families to 9/11,” (Vincentian Heritage 21,2: 48-95 pdf) tells of how members from across the Vincentian Family experienced and served in this time of crisis.  It is well worth the time to read. And who knew then that the  iconic St. Vincent’s hospital so often referenced would be closed.
Other resources include another article by Sr. Regina “Charity presence in time of disasters” as well as Sr. Maureen Skelly’s moving account of  Finding the cross when the towers fell. There is also a reflection that, while not the answer, at least asked the systemic change question about addressing the root causes of terrorism. “…while we may be able to destroy the material assets of those who foster terrorism, what about the conditions which will spawn new leaders and more sophisticated forms of terrorism.”
  • Were you aware of this moment prior to this post?
  • What is your most powerful recollection of 9/11?
  • How can the Vincentian Family be an instrument of peace?
Click the comment button to share your reactions.


  1. Ruth Lang

    I was not aware of this lovely monument until reading of it here. Thanks. Was there much publication about it five years ago when it was given?

  2. jbf

    One of the best 9/11 homilies I have heard. Deacon Ted preached the following at the 8:30 Eucharist in St. Joseph’s University parish in Buffalo. As celebrant I was deeply struck.

    September 11, 2011 Homily
    Sirach 27:30 – 28:9
    Romans 14:7 – 9a
    Matthew 18:21 – 35

    It seems an uncanny coincidence that today’s gospel parable about radical forgiveness, predetermined by the 3 year cycle of the lectionary, should be heard in churches around the world as we observe the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. When such powerful coincidences occur, spiritual teachers call it “Sacred Synchronicity” highlighting a powerful message from God in the event.
    While the obvious message in today’s readings is about forgiveness, forgiving 77 times, there is also a challenging observation about human nature. That is found in the last words of the gospel that call us to forgive “from your heart”. In our day and age, this infers feelings and emotions, but to the original audience, the heart is the core of intelligence and free will.
    Every person controls their own thoughts and ideas. We are the Masters of our Minds! Where do these thoughts and ideas come from? First of all, each person has their own long history of experiences that shape and influence what we think. Also, in our ever expanding world of social diversity, we constantly receive messages from a variety of sources in print, the media and social interaction. For the past few weeks we have all heard numerous stories about the losses, the grief, the heroes and the families of 9/11.
    The question to each of us involves how we personally react when negative situations cause us pain and grief and remind us, all too vividly, that we do not live in a perfect world. That is why psychologists tell us that we need forgiveness, why Jesus talks so much about forgiveness and why we are told to pray daily, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Powerful encouragement, but yet, We are the Masters of our Minds!
    One of the most difficult things for humans to do is to forgive. When I taught lessons about forgiveness during my 38 years as an educator, the students almost always objected with statements like:
    “How could you ever forgive someone who kills someone you love or cheats on you?”
    “I think it’s wrong to forgive people, they deserve to be punished for what they did!”
    “I admire people who can forgive others, but I know I could never do it!”
    What does this complex and often misunderstood spiritual act really mean? Authentic forgiveness does not promote willful ignorance or a Pollyanna type of wishing evil would simply go away. In point of fact, real forgiveness assumes a candid and realistic knowledge of wrongs committed and is accordingly accompanied by legitimate anger. Moses was angry, King David was angry, and Jesus was angry when confronting the hardness of heart of the Pharisees and when cleansing the Temple.
    Ephesians 4 says, “You do well to be angry, but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Were we ten years ago, and can we today still be legitimately angry about the tragedy of September 11th? Absolutely! Thomas Aquinas said that anger is the natural response to injustice, for it is the passion to make things right.
    Martin Luther King was angry at racial inequality in mid-twentieth century America.
    Gandhi was angry at the injustices born of British imperialism.
    Pope John Paul II was angry at the oppressive policies of communism.
    They were all justified in their anger. This is why the Bible speaks of God’s anger. It doesn’t mean that God passes into an emotional snit; it means that God tries to straighten out a world that is led astray by misguided people. We are the Masters of our Minds!
    Perhaps Alexander Pope described this tension most adequately when he wrote, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” What, then, is forgiveness?
    Forgiveness is not condoning; we are never obliged to approve of offensive behavior that is harmful and destructive;
    Forgiveness is not forgetting; some wounds are too deep to ever forget;
    Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation; we may with great effort manage to forgive another but still not desire to be in their presence;
    Forgiveness is not denial; we must look directly into the offense and let the horror and shame sink deep within us. For healing must be as deep as the wound.

    Forgiveness is a great act of unconditional love. As Christ hung upon the cross, he cried out from the depths of his wounded body, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing!”
    Those words became a central theme for the New Testament writers who saw that the first generation Churches faced persecution from the outside as well as division internally. The survival of that early Church depended upon tolerance and forgiveness. 2000 years later we are challenged in a similar way to embrace this way of thinking to build a new world and to look optimistically to the future.
    Ten years ago our hearts were broken by terrorism. But we can deny them victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also emotional oppression to further its aims. We must not allow this act to drive us away from being the people that God has called us to be.
    We are a community that values tolerance, compassion, justice and the sacredness of human life as the heart of our religious traditions. This has been a test of our national and religious character. May we today recommit ourselves to praying, to acting & to uniting against the bitter fruits of division, hatred and violence. We are a community that values thinking and intelligence.
    We are the Masters of our Minds! Let us rededicate ourselves to global peace, human dignity and the eradication of injustice that breeds rage and vengeance.
    As believers today gather in houses of worship around the world, let us continue the process of healing and pray for an increase in wisdom, so that we may continually develop to think as God thinks and to love as God loves.
    May God Bless us and deliver us from evil! Amen!

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