Cardinal Dolan said he couldn’t think of “a better place to be” than St. Patrick’s Cathedral “on this somber anniversary” of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
He shared his sentiments in opening remarks at a morning Mass he offered Sept. 11 at the cathedral for members of the FDNY and families of firefighters who perished on 9/11.
“My welcome to all of you this morning is especially heartfelt and fervent,” the cardinal said in his homily.
“While the entirety of this one nation under God observes this two-decade anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, you all have a special claim to it,” the cardinal said.
“You, FDNY, were there. You, FDNY, lost cherished colleagues—343,” the cardinal said.
“And you, beloved families—how much we love you—realized that day, that the day you had long dreaded, the phone call you often feared, the supreme loss you knew was part of the package, had arrived all at once.
“So you are all very much at home here at St. Patrick’s, folks,” he said.
“This happens to be where we come to sob, to remember with reverence and gratitude, to recall with love those we gave away that day.”
The cathedral, he continued, is where we come to hear the inspired word of God, especially the teaching of Christ.
“This is where we come to bow heads, to whisper a prayer, to dry a tear, to fight off a lump in the throat, to light a candle and realize we’re not alone. God is with us, family, friends, community, Mother Church, is with us.”
The cathedral is also “where we come to obey that command that Jesus gave us that night before He died, that Last Supper, that Holy Thursday: ‘Do this in memory of Me,’ as we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Most Holy Eucharist.
“This, at Mass, is where we come to renew His own sacrifice on the Cross, on Calvary, as He died, so we might live forever.
“This is where we come to remember them—those we lost, to embrace each other, to sense a bit of eternity and to long for reunion,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Later in the day, Cardinal Dolan led a 20th anniversary memorial service at the cathedral to remember the 343 FDNY firefighters killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. The annual service is sponsored by the FDNY.
The cardinal, in concluding remarks at the morning Mass, referenced the cathedral’s rendition of the Pieta statue as a symbol of solace. “Mary, at the foot of the cross, holding the body of her son Jesus. And you families, my oh my what consolation you should get from that.”
The liturgy concluded with the hymn, “America the Beautiful.” As the firefighters recessed, they were acknowledged with resounding applause from the rest of the congregation.
Outside, after the Mass, FDNY firefighter Matthew Bland, 41, of Engine 96 in the Bronx, spoke with CNY. He was accompanied by his 3-year-old daughter, Taylor.
Bland, who has been a firefighter for 17 years, said he attended the cathedral Mass in memory of Michael Lynch, a firefighter who perished at the World Trade Center.
As part of an FDNY program that connected firefighters with children who lost parents in the line of duty on 9/11, Bland was paired with Lynch’s son Jack, who is now 20. “Getting paired up with him is part of my promise to ‘never forget,’” Bland said of befriending Jack when the boy was 6, “and to be here with his family who we’ve become very close with is an amazing gift.”
“The fire department, our big phrase since 9/11, has been ‘never forget,’ Bland said. “For me, coming into the fire department, I was that post-9/11 generation,” he added of entering the FDNY in 2004. “My involvement in the program was pretty much to fulfill that promise to Jack, to let him know that I will never forget and the department will never forget. And now we will always honor his father’s memory.”
Although Bland, who belongs to St. Frances de Chantal parish in Wantagh, Long Island, did not know Lynch, he has come to know his story and to hold him “near and dear” to his heart.
At the time, Lynch “was on the list to be promoted to lieutenant,” Bland said. “He could have come to the Bronx and been my lieutenant. I lost guys that I could have potentially worked with that day, and I try to honor them and memorialize them by being there for their children.”
Lynch, Bland explained, was posthumously promoted to lieutenant. “He was in the Trade Center that day and helped form a human ladder to rescue people out of the elevators. Definitely a hero.”