Consigned to Ovens of Silence

Today while many of us are focused on our daily lives, I want to remind everyone that 75 years ago today, the Auschwitz death camp was liberated by Allied Forces.

Survivors gather there today to reflect, grieve, and remember.. As their numbers dwindle, so does our ability to be reminded of the true horror that we see the faces those who survived what was both the biggest mass murder in the history of creation, as well as the largest failure of humanity to be human.

We as the members of the modern human family have an obligation to never forget just how horrific we can be to each other. Had you told people in the 1930’s what was to come, the story would have been to terrific for people to believe.

If you think today that this sort of thing could never happen again, then you are as naive as our ancestors.

Pfennig Postcard, Wrong Address
by Michael R. Burch

We saw their pictures:
tortured out of our imaginations
like golems.

We could not believe
in their frail extremities
or their gaunt faces,

pallid as our disbelief.
They are not
with us now . . .

We have:
huddled them
into the backrooms of conscience,

consigned them
to the ovens of silence,

buried them in the mass graves
of circumstances beyond our control.

We have
so little left
of them

now
to remind us …

You call them Firefighters

They are the only one left in the evacuation zone, staying until the last possible moment. They wake up at any time of the night, ready to respond to the call to duty. They are the face we see breaking through the flames, and the face of the one who carries you to safety.

They are the some of the bravest men and women the world will ever know, risking their lives in an a attempt to save the lives of others. They run into burning buildings, at raging forest fires, and stare death and fear in the eyes with no hesitation or second thoughts.

They are on the front lines in the war against Mother Nature’s fury, providing the last stand to protect that which we love and cherish most.

They have families, loved ones, interests and hobbies.

They are the warriors of the people, the fighters, our saviors, and the bravest among us.

We call each other Brother and Sister, and cherish each as if they were our very own flesh and blood.

You call them Firefighters.

September 11

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.

#neverforget