These days in September are always an emotional roller coaster for me.
On the morning of 9/11 I went to work early. I had a pretty large meeting scheduled with the Superiors of the Jesuit Provinces in the US, as well as a few bishops.
I was at work for about 30 minutes preparing, and my phone rang. It was my then partner and still best friend Fredo Alvarez, and he was inconsolable. He was finally able to tell me that there was a plane crash at the World Trade Center. His mother worked on that block and he couldn’t reach her.
I turned on the TV in the conference room and watched the second plane hit on live TV.
We immediately cancelled the meeting, and I said Mass with the fellow priests and bishops. We prayed. We prayed harder than I think I have ever prayed. At the moment of the consecration of the Body and Blood of Our Savior, the plane hit the Pentagon.
We finished Mass and sent everyone home. I took a cab to my other assignment- The Basilica in DC, where the Cardinal was going to say a televised Mass for the nation.
Again we prayed. We prayed harder than I had ever prayed before.
I prayed for Fredo’s mom, and for the men and women I have come across in FDNY- the greatest fire department man has ever dreamt up.
I Prayed for a former co-worker and now FDNY Lt. on Rescue 1. He would have been on the initial alarm that day. I wrote him a long letter of recommendation so he could get on his the job- his dream of all dreams.
I finally made it home hours later- Metro was closed, taxis were overwhelmed. I shared a cab at one point with a woman who was a reporter for the Washington Post- her girlfriend was a reporter at the NY Times, and she couldn’t reach her.
I prayed again.. prayed harder than I had ever prayed before. We cried. Crying was the default action of the day. Our Nation was bleeding- taking as close to a mortal wound as freedom can bear.
Fredo’s mom was alive- she was late to work that day, exited the subway and saw the plane hit. She then walked from lower Manhattan to the Bronx- it took her 12 hours.
I spent weeks looking through the published list of FDNY’s losses looking for Matt’s name. Six days later I found out he was ok.
I prayed.. prayed harder than I had ever prayed before.
And I cried.
Today, 18 years later- I still cry. I cry for what our country lost; for the pain those left behind still feel every single day; for those lost in the battle against those forces who hate us just because we, like those lost, chose to get on a plane, to go to work, to don an SCBA, climb in a patrol car, to hold the hand of a dying elderly woman.
We lost a sense of our innocence that day. Something that no war, no memorial, no prayer will restore to us.
And today, 18 years later. I cry.. and I pray… I pray harder than ever before for those still in harms way here locally, in the military, and for those brothers of mine who are about to join the military.
We all have more praying to do.
God Bless you all.