On a glorious late-summer day, people gathered at the Red, White, and Blue Mass Saturday (9/11) to remember another fine day in 2001 that quickly turned dark as terrorists hijacked jetliners and attacked our nation.
First responders, police officers, fire fighters, medical workers, military personnel, legal professionals, elected officials, and their families were joined by people from around the Diocese for the special Mass that took place 20 years to the day after the September 11 attacks.
Bishop Alfred Schlert celebrated the Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Orefield.
“It is very fitting for us to come together today in solemnity, and also to honor the events of September 11, 2001,” Bishop Schlert said in his homily. “We pray for all who lost lives, all those who were injured, and all those who continue to bear the wounds, both physical and emotional.”
He recalled the days after 9-11 as a time when people came together in patriotism, in human kindness, and in understanding of the dignity and worth of the human person. He spoke of sacrifice, a concept mentioned in each of the day’s Mass readings. We saw sacrifice lived out on September 11, 2001, he said, and each of us is called to sacrifice every day.
Today, Bishop Schlert said, many in our country fight an unseen enemy – disunity, disrespect for human life, lack of sacrifice, and fading patriotism. By striving to regain those things, in ourselves, in our brothers and sisters, and in society, he said, we can honor those who were lost and those who continue to protect us every day.
Deacon Greg Kandra of the Brooklyn Diocese, a journalist who worked for CBS news in Manhattan on that day, spoke at a reception afterward. He recalled the quiet on the city on the night of September 11, with no traffic, with candles in many windows. He recalled seeing a weary firefighter, covered in dust. He spoke of how those images remain seared in his mind 20 years later, and how he was moved, eventually, to answer God’s call to become a deacon.
He noted that with the passing of time, fewer and fewer people are able to pass along their memories of 9-11 to subsequent generations. “Tell the story of 9-11,” he urged his audience. “We need to keep remembering the loss and the sorrow, but also the courage, the honor, the selflessness, the love, and the heroism of that day.”