17 years ago today, the United States was forever changed. Terrorists hijacked four airliners, intending to make suicide attacks on certain institutions of the United States. Two planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, in New York City, NY. A third was plowed into the Pentagon, command central of the U.S. military, in Washington, DC. On the fourth airplane, passengers and crew attempted to take back control of the plane, the terrorists dove the plane into the ground in Pennsylvania. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, from the structural damage caused by the crash, and the fires that followed, collapsed in on itself, killing all those trapped inside. The Pentagon suffered severe damage, and many military and civilian personnel were either killed or injured. All together, there was 2,977 victims of the attacks, who died.
On the day this happened, I was working in an office, in downtown Boston, MA. I could listen on a radio, while I worked; so I was listening to public radio news. I was shocked when I heard of the first plane crash into the Twin Towers. The historian in me, remembered a similar crash in 1945; when a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber accidentally crashed into the Empire State Building. But as time went on, and more stories came over the air waves, I could tell that what was happening was no accident. Further down the street from where our office building was, was another building that housed the Boston Stock Exchange. In front, they had a display window, that held large TV screens, showing news and how the markets were performing. I could see a large crowd gathering in front that display window. The size of the crowd extended out into the street.
Our bosses called us together, gave us a rundown of what was known, and told us to go home. I stayed for a bit, I know it seems not to make any sense; but I was not going let any act of terror, keep me from doing my work. It took a nervous call from my wife to get me to stop and leave the office. Once outside our building, I found streets and sidewalks normally bustling with cars, trucks, and pedestrians, deserted. Also, deserted was the train station. The following mornings, when I would be waiting for the commuter train to take me into the city; I looked up into sky. Normally, I would see a half a dozen contrails of airline jets flying to and from Logan International Airport. That day, I only saw a few contrails, and they were circling overhead. They were jet fighters.
There is not much more I remember of those days that followed the tragedy of 9/11. I know I attended prayer services. Prayer intentions for the victims and their families were mentioned at Masses I attended. Little did I know what the long-term effects would be, resulting from those acts of terror. Two wars, one still ongoing, to a certain extent, with its share of dead, wounded and families shattered. We became a country that seems to be constantly on guard; with the individual rights we have held so dear, sometimes willingly given up for security. In our name, persons have been subjected to “enhanced interrogation;” torture by any other name is still torture. And there are still victims of the 9/11 attacks who are dying; dying from the cancers and other illnesses brought on by the smoke and contaminated dust from the Trade Center.
We cannot forget those who lost their lives in the attacks; we must continue to remember them. We must pray for and support the survivors; those who lost love ones; and those who are still trying to deal with the effects of those days on their minds and souls. And honor to those first responders, in the past, today, and in the future; those who charge forward into danger, when others may flee.
I close this reflection with a prayer to Mary, Mother of Sorrows, asking her intercession for us all in these dangerous times:
Remember, most loving Virgin Mary, never was it heard that anyone, who turned to for help, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, though burdened by my sins, I run to your protection for you are my mother. Mother of the Word of God, do not despise my words of pleading, but be merciful and hear my prayer. Amen.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.