Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This month holds a somber remembrance for us. None living and aware on 9/11/2001 will ever forget what happened that day. It is among the days of which anyone can say what he was doing at the time. Coverage of the rolling, mounting horrors was instantaneous and gripping. When the twin towers were hit and later collapsed, illumined in a blue, beautiful morning sky, we saw with our eyes the sudden and violent death of nearly 3,000 people. When the first mind-numbing shock subsides, we want to get whoever did this and wipe them out. As Americans, as a matter of fact, as human beings with any fellow feeling, we could scarcely avoid this first reaction. As Christians, we are called to something above this first reaction. A clue as to where to start is in the recorded reactions of the 9/11 victims themselves.
There are many accounts of those who, as it became apparent to them that they weren’t going to survive, used their remaining time to reach out in love to those who most needed their love and from whom they most needed love. During what is by any evaluation a desperate time, they ignored despair and reached out to others in love.
Another lesson for us from 9/11 victims comes from those first responders who laid down their lives for others, others who were not known to them, those who understand their calling to be shaped by the possibility of sacrifice for others and respond to this call with simplicity and humility.
We learn too from those passengers on Flight 93 who rose above themselves, above us all, to stop further horrific national and human destruction by putting their lives in the way. “Let’s roll,” one of them said. That phrase connected with their sacrificial act, silences in its simplicity any pride that would rise.
How can we adequately appreciate such forthright, straightforward readiness to go to death for us all? By imitating the divine source of the courage and love that inspired them and through them inspires us. By loving with all our hearts Him who is the source of love and who loved with His whole person to the point of death for us. By loving in memory the victims, both the helpless and the sacrificially purposeful. By loving those left behind by them. And, finally, by loving each other, as our sacrificing Savior has commanded us to do.
It is in this light and for this cause that our bishops call on us to say certain petitions for the increase of love on the day of 9/11 itself, as well as to remember in a litany for the reposed those who, maybe unbeknownst to themselves, imitated Him who gave Himself for us.