Citing the example of first responders and other New Yorkers after the 9/11 attacks, Cardinal Egan said their actions provided “a powerful lesson” that should never be forgotten.
“When truly challenged, the best of us forget ourselves and become men and women for others, men and women who march into harm’s way for others, men and women who are even willing to give up their lives for others,” the cardinal said in his homily at an afternoon Mass on Sept. 11 at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street in lower Manhattan.
Outside on Church Street, people lined up behind barricades as the names of those who were killed in the attacks were read in a ceremony at Ground Zero, just a couple of blocks away.
Archbishop Dolan was the principal celebrant of the Mass. He celebrated the liturgy using the chalice and paten of Holy Cross Father Francis Grogan, a passenger on Flight 175 who died when that plane crashed into the South Tower on 9/11 (see Editor’s Report, Page XX). Father Tom Looney, vice provincial of the U.S. Province of Holy Cross Fathers and Brothers, had delivered the chalice and paten and was a concelebrant of the Mass.
“On a day we could have cursed, we rather prayed,” Archbishop Dolan said, “nowhere more so than at St. Peter’s, which itself was damaged that day.”
On 9/11, the roof of St. Peter’s Church was punctured by a falling airplane part, leaving a hole that had to be repaired. The church building served for weeks after the attacks as a respite site for firefighters, police, rescue and recovery workers.
At the anniversary Mass, Father Kevin Madigan, the pastor of St. Peter’s, at Archbishop Dolan’s request, read a letter sent from Pope Benedict XVI to the archbishop for the anniversary of 9/11.
Cardinal Egan, in his homily, recalled the heroic lessons of 9/11 that he witnessed while serving at St. Vincent’s Hospital and at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the terror attacks. He shared stories of a doctor at St. Vincent’s who refused to leave his post even though he was quite shaken by the prospect of losing his father, a worker on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center; a police commander who refused to leave his fellow police officers at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 even though he sensed that his lungs were damaged by the dust and soot in the air; and a team of emergency workers that dug into broken cement and mud to pull bodies out from under piles of debris, asking only to be allowed to continue their work.
The cardinal punctuated his remarks about each one of them by saying, “This is not a character out of fiction. This is not an imaginary hero. This is one of us…”
“The heroes of September 11, 2001, have shown us the way,” the cardinal concluded. “We embrace the lessons of goodness they have taught us, and we thank them from the depth of our souls, as we thank their families, their friends, and all those who loved and mourn them. Never will we forget them.”