Today, we remember the lives lost on September 11, 2001.
Every year, on the Sunday prior to the anniversary of September 11, people from all over the country commemorate the sacrifice of the hundreds of first responders who lost their lives at the World Trade Center. 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, 8 paramedics, and 1 patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol died trying to save the thousands and thousands of people inside the Twin Towers. In all, 2,997 died in the attacks that occurred on 9/11.
Yesterday, I joined my Franciscan brothers, Br. Chris Keenan, OFM, chaplain of the New York Fire Department, and Br. David Schlatter, OFM, as well as hundreds of families, friends, and loved ones of the many men and women who bravely gave their lives to rescue their brothers and sisters. We retraced the steps of our Franciscan brother, Br. Mychal Judge, OFM, as he hurried from the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi on 31st Street to the burning wreck at Ground Zero, that fateful September morning. 16 years ago today, Mychal entered eternal life and joined the communion of saints.
Along the way, we stopped by various fire stations and police precincts in New York City, where the names of the brave men and women were read by their surviving brothers and sisters. After the names were read, we listened to reflections from Mychal’s homilies and prayed. Bells of remembrance rang out after each stop.
We also commemorated the heroic life of Detective Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department, a close friend of Mychal’s who founded the Walk of Remembrance in 2002. Steven’s life was also an example of Christian discipleship. After having suffered multiple gunshot wounds that left him quadriplegic, he forgave his assailant and began to preach a Gospel message of reconciliation and forgiveness. Steven and Mychal formed a beautiful friendship and travelled to Belfast to spread their message of peace.
Steven died earlier this year, on January 10, 2017. His wife Patty and son, Conor, was present on the Walk. I pray that the lives of Steven and Mychal, as well as their many brothers and sisters in the FDNY, NYPD, and other first responders can be an example of what it means to truly love, for “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
As we saw in the brave sacrifice of Br. Mychal Judge, OFM and in the heroic life of Detective Steven McDonald, the greatest love involves the greatest sacrifice, but it is also lived out in everyday moments of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Steven and Mychal, please pray for us.